Erik Lamela was widely lauded as Tottenham’s most improved player of the season following another glowing display against West Ham United last weekend, but lavish praise for the Argentine was placed on mute last night in the BT Sport studio.
Lamela revealed the extent of Mauricio Pochettino’s options in the number ten role at the London Stadium with a dominant performance which proved that Tottenham are well equipped to cope with the absence of both Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli.
But despite his immensely confident display, Lamela (valued at £18 million by Transfermarkt) returned to the substitutes bench yesterday evening as Eriksen stepped into the starting line-up in his place.
The great Dane was in typically creative mood and he planted a tantalisingly appetising ball on a silver platter for Harry Kane to gobble up and Spurs ahead early in the second-half, but his decisive impact proved insufficient in the visitors bid to clinch three vital points.
Lamela was given his chance to shine when he replaced Lucas Moura in the second-half and he almost continued his fine run of goal scoring form when he clipped the crossbar in the 73rd minute.
However, Lamela’s most telling contribution arrived in the defensive third as he was caught sleeping on the edge of Tottenham’s 18-yard box in the build up to Luuk de Jong’s equaliser.
In the aftermath of proceedings, Jermaine Jenas slated the Argentina international for his poor defensive positioning on BT Sport.
“I don’t know why Lamela’s not already on the edge of the 18-yard box, he kinda floated in no mans land, he wasn’t in the wall. Somebody needs to be there for the knock downs.
“Lamela is in a poor situation if I’m totally honest”
While PSV’s late sucker punch illuminates a fundamental and collective problem Tottenham are failing to tackle at this moment in time, Jenas’ assessment of Lamela’s individual contribution is absolutely spot on.
It would be grossly unjust to blame the result on Lamela’s failure to cover the space which allowed the unchallenged Pablo Rosario to provide the assist for De Jong, but his mistake is certainly one which Pochettino will need to address this week.
Lamela has endeared himself to the Tottenham supporters in recent years with his diligent attitude and utmost willingness to embrace the unglamorous side of the game, so there’s no doubt his mistake was simply an error of judgement rather than a selfish shirk of responsibility.
But in fixtures of the magnitude which Tottenham faced last night there is simply no margin for error and De Jong’s agonising prod beyond Michel Vorm served to prove how fatal a momentary lapse in concentration can be in the Champions League.
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