Last Friday was a busy day at White Hart Lane. Having earlier announced the signing of defender Vlad Chiriches, Tottenham broke their transfer record for the third time this summer with the acquisition of Erik Lamela from AS Roma. The 21-year-old arrives in north London for a fee reported to be in the region of £30m, topping the £17m and £26m outlays on Paulinho and Roberto Soldado respectively.
Having seen a deal for Willian hijacked at the last minute by Chelsea, Andre Villas-Boas turned to the highly-rated Argentine as he splashed the cash ahead of Gareth Bale’s subsequent departure to Real Madrid. Speaking to the club’s official website upon completion of the deal, Lamela is keen to make his mark after a couple of seasons in Serie A:
“I’m really happy to be here. It’s a great move for me and I’m looking forward to doing my best for the team in every game. I like the English style of football, it’s very offensive and attacking and that’s how I want to play. I have to adapt to playing in the Premier League as quickly as I can.”
A product of the River Plate youth academy, Lamela was offered a contract by Barcelona at the age of 12 but chose to reject the La Liga club and remain in his native country. Handed his debut back in June 2009, Lamela proceeded to play 36 league matches, producing four goals and six assists, but his club’s relegation from the Argentine top-flight saw the suitors circling.
Snapped up by Roma in the summer of 2011 for a bargain €12 million, Lamela’s first season in Italy was more of a settling-in period. From 29 appearances, he produced four goals and seven assists before stepping up considerably under the guidance of Zdenek Zeman last time out. Situated on the right of a front three, the left-footer racked up 15 goals and five assists over 33 league matches, with only four players – including former team-mate and Southampton new boy Pablo Osvaldo – scoring more Serie A goals in 2012/13.
On the international stage, Lamela has scored three goals in four appearances for Argentine U20s and has turned out for the senior side on three occasions.
Crucially for Villas-Boas, Lamela’s versatility affords him options in either a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation. As mentioned above, he was deployed as an inverted winger on the right of a three-man frontline in his final season in Italy to huge success and with the Spurs boss adding the likes of Paulinho and Etienne Capoue to his options in central midfield, Villas-Boas has already rolled out a 4-3-3 against Swansea and Arsenal.
The likes of Aaron Lennon and Andros Townsend will surely tumble down the pecking order in light of the Argentine’s arrival, with Lamela’s superb dribbling ability and creativity, allied with a penchant for cutting inside and letting fly from his favoured left foot, making him the hot favourite for a role on the right flank.
Alternatively, Lamela can just as easily be fielded in “the hole” behind a lone forward. While Paulinho impressed in the Gameweek 2 win over the Swans, the formation left Roberto Soldado stranded all too often up front, with Spurs lacking in creativity from central areas in both their last couple of league matches – a 4-2-3-1 formation is likely to solve such a problem and hand the Spaniard a little more support in attacking areas; boosting his appeal as he searches for his first league goal from open play.
While the number 10 role is Lamela’s preferred position, the subsequent signing of Christian Eriksen suggests the Dane has been acquired with this berth in mind but, of the pair, the Argentine’s greater adaptability may afford him more game time, with Eriksen likely to be more dependant on specific systems to flourish. Certainly, Gylfi Sigurdsson’s chances of remaining in the mix look slim – having been dropped for the last two matches, the Icelandic international may have to rely on cup appearances and game time off the bench in light of his manager’s summer spending spree.
Priced at 9.0 in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) and 7.5 in the Sky Sports, Lamela is set to pick up plenty interest over the international break as Fantasy managers reconsider their midfields after a lacklustre start by many of the big-hitters. With Soldado now up to 9.7 in FPL, the Argentine offers a cheaper route into Villas-Boas’ side ahead of a superb schedule which has Spurs rated top of our fixture ticker over the next six Gameweeks – home clashes against Norwich, West Ham and Hull, in addition to trips to Cardiff and Villa afford the north London club the chance to quickly bounce back after yesterday’s disappointing derby defeat to Arsenal.