After an extensive search following the departure of Tim Sherwood, Tottenham announced yesterday that they had appointed Southampton’s Mauricio Pochettino as their new manager. Whilst the fans may have preferred another appointment, with Ajax’s boss Frank De Boer one of the names touted, the news will be received greatly by one Spurs player in particular. Since his arrival from Roma last summer, the weight of expectation has rested firmly on Erik Lamela’s shoulders. Spurs fans would have been forgiven for having high hopes about a player that the club chose to spend just over £25million for and reports from Italy suggested at the time that they were correct to set the benchmark high given Lamela’s past two seasons at Roma. But like many foreign players coming into the Premiership, Lamela struggled to adapt, not only on the pitch and the high intensity of the Premiership but also culturally with north London a more rougher proposition that his previous home in Rome.
It didn’t help that then coach Andre Villas Boas preferred to play him on the left as a natural replacement for the departed Gareth Bale when arguably his best and most comfortable position was on the right flank. The Portuguese coach was also heavily criticized for not looking after his new talent, instead allowing Lamela to integrate himself, despite knowing that the player was struggling. After Villas Boas left and Tim Sherwood took charge, things started to look brighter for Lamela as Sherwood brought back most the players on the peripherals to dramatic effect. Lamela started Sherwood’s first game in charge, ironically a 3-2 win over Pochettino’s Southampton side and immediately showed what the Spurs fans had been missing with a series of smart runs down the right wing. He would then come on as a sub for the next two games before injuring his back in training which ruled him out for the remainder of the season. Talk of Tottenham shipping out the Argentinean in the summer started at the beginning of April and has been persistent ever since with a move back to Italy becoming the monthly running favourite with most media sources.
But the appointment of fellow Argentine Pochettino is likely to change that with the new coach unlikely to sanction a move away from the club for one of its more talented players. Pochettino instead will look to apply the same approach he had at Southampton, working with each player to extract the best out of them as much as possible for the benefit of the team. Before he took charge of Southampton, Jay Rodriguez was nowhere near an England squad but after working with Pochettino for a season and a half, he had one foot on the plane to Brazil before an anterior cruciate ligament injury in April ruled him out of contention. Similarly Pochettino worked to smooth the rough edges of fellow striker Rickie Lambert, perfecting his positioning and hold up play that eventually turned him into World Cup bound England striker. Whilst Lamela requires little work in terms of talent development, Pochettino can help by reinstalling the confidence in his fellow countryman that once flowed through him during his spells with River Plate and Roma. Having Lamela back living up to his full potential will have the same result for Pochettino and Tottenham as buying a new world class player but without the bedding in period.
Lamela is immensely talented and was wrongly ignored by Villas Boas but Pochettino could reap the rewards as he kickstarts his spell as Tottenham boss. The new Spurs coach will have a lot of work ahead of him including trimming down the Tottenham squad of all the excess fat before he starts to bring in his own people. He will spend the off season molding his team into the squad he want before working in the pre season to teach them the tactics he wants to play. At Southampton, Pochettino preferred the 4-2-3-1 formation and will make that the basis for his tactical plans at Spurs. He will want to play attractive attacking football, with pace and flair with Dane Christian Eriksen operating in the central positions of the three attacking midfielders, much like Adam Lallana performed at Southampton. Lamela will be restored and placed on his favoured right flank with permission granted from his manager to explore the gaps and run at defenders with pace and enthusiasm. This will suit Lamela who will be desperate to prove to the naysayers that he is not a dud and he can still offer something to Tottenham. The smart money will be on Pochettino investing in a left winger (or perhaps place his faith in Andros Townsend) who can then work with Lamela and Eriksen to gain the most out of his attacking trio.
Whilst Pochettino may not be the glamour choice for Spurs, he may end up being the right one. He will nurture the existing fringe players like Lamela and Lewis Holtby to bring out the best in them whilst also bringing through some of the new stars of tomorrow in the Tottenham youth squad like Cristian Ceballos, Shaquile Coulthirst and Alex Pritchard much like he did at Southampton with Luke Shaw, James Ward Prowse and Calum Chambers. Even if Pochettino can only transform Erik Lamela back into the player he was at Roma, he will have a hugely successful spell as Tottenham boss.
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