Erik Lamela arrived at Tottenham for a club-record fee of £30 million last summer, but a lack of form and injury problems meant that he was unable to live up to his price-tag in his first year in England.
Coming off the back of a stunning campaign for Roma, much was expected of the 22-year-old, but he only made nine appearances in the Premier League last season. Of those nine appearances, he only completed the full 90 minutes in the 6-0 defeat away to Manchester City.
His debut campaign went about as badly as it could have done, and Lamela spoke of his desire to prove himself during pre-season. Spurs have appointed a fellow Argentine in Mauricio Pochettino, and his attacking system seems well suited to the winger's natural game.
Lamela showed flashes of his ability in the opening game of the season against West Ham, though Spurs went down to 10 men in the first-half and he was substituted after an hour. He came off the bench to set up both of the club's goals in the Europa League play-off against Limassol in midweek, but he truly announced himself to English football in Sunday's 4-0 win over Queen's Park Rangers.
Unbelievably, the game against QPR was Lamela's first Premier League start at White Hart Lane, and it was clear that he was determined to make up for lost time. He started on the right with license to cut inside on his left foot, and QPR's three-man defence didn't know how to cope with him.
Lamela Heat Map vs QPR
He was always looking to get on the ball and make things happen, to the delight of the crowd at White Hart Lane, and there was a purpose and incisiveness to his play that was noticeably absent in his brief appearances last season.
It seemed that Pochettino has already had a significant impact at Spurs, and his new team were playing with real fluidity, looking dangerous whenever they poured forward. With Emmanuel Adebayor as a focal point, Lamela, Christian Eriksen, and Nacer Chadli linked up impressively behind him.
Lamela wasn't just embellishing the game with nice touches, he was having a decisive impact. He created Spurs' second and third goals, and both assists showed off different aspects of his talent.
The first assist came when he whipped a corner towards the near post, and Eric Dier emphatically headed in to score his second goal in two appearances for the club. The second showed him at his very best, directly running at defenders with pace and skill.
He picked up the ball in midfield from Christian Eriksen, and drove across the penalty area from right to left. He beat Richard Dunne, then Mauricio Isla, before playing a perfectly-weighted cross back across goal for Chadli to head home. It was a sensational piece of play, and the highlight of a very impressive performance from the Argentine.
Lamela's passing was very good throughout the match - he found a teammate with 89% of his attempted passes, and he created three chances in total, including the two assists. He was also willing to try and beat a defender to open up space. He had six successful take-ons, and only Eden Hazard has managed more (nine) in a single Premier League game so far this season.
As good as he was against QPR, he could have been even better. There was one occasion were Spurs broke with a numerical advantage, and rather than slide the ball across to an open teammate, he opted to take on a defender, and the attack fizzled out. He should have taken the simple option, but it's likely that he was trying too hard to impress after his frustrating campaign last year, which is understandable. In a way, it's admirable that he is willing to take on such responsibility himself, especially after receiving so much criticism last season.
There were plenty of encouraging signs on display for Spurs' fans in their comfortable victory, which took them to the top of the table with six points out of a possible six. They have yet to concede a goal, they played with style and control, and their pressing allowed them to win the ball high up the pitch.
Most exciting, though, might be the return to form of Lamela. His quality has never been in doubt, and he showed just why the club were willing to spend so much money on him. He scored 15 goals and registered five assists in his final season in Serie A, and if he continues to blossom under Pochettino, there's no reason he can't deliver such impressive statistics in the Premier League.
- Sports & Recreation
- Erik Lamela
- Premier League
- Mauricio Pochettino