It appears as if Tottenham will need to make due over the last two months of the season without star playmaker Érik Lamela.
This hardly comes as shocking news. Mauricio Pochettino admitted just two weeks ago that Tottenham’s medical team couldn’t make a reliable prediction as to the Argentine’s recovery. At the time it seemed as if it could be imminent, or perhaps beyond the foreseeable future.
After his most successfully Spurs season to date in 2015/16, Lamela began the current season appearing to have found a new gear. He scored the equalizer in the opener against Everton, and in the weeks that followed generally looked one of the squad’s better players.
A hip injury in late October forced him out of Pochettino’s plans. His recovery was complicated by his brother suffering an injury in Argentina that forced Lamela to return to his home country over the holidays.
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Upon return to Europe in January, Spurs made the curious decision to let Lamela train with his old club Roma for a time as his hip continued to heal. This naturally sparked plenty of transfer rumors, ones that persist despite the player returning to north London since.
Surgery wasn’t initially believed to be necessary, but The Independent now claims that the club are considering all options to resolve Lamela’s persistent and strange ailment. With or without the need for surgery though, it appears unlikely that Pochettino welcomes Lamela back into the fold before May.
Were a Spurs fan to be told before the season began that Lamela would miss the bulk of the coming term, they might understandably fret. Though he isn’t a goalscorer like Harry Kane, nor an assist-machine like Christian Eriksen, Lamela fills a vital role all the same.
His ability to thread together Spurs’ possession and attacking game was unparelleled, and he was among the biggest cogs in Pochettino’s high press engine. Without him in the lineup Spurs’ traditional 4-2-3-1 tactical shape breaks down.
Though the club did struggle as all of Lamela, Kane and Toby Alderweireld went down injured, Pochettino eventually found a convenient solution. The 3-4-2-1 formation Spurs have employed since January top loads the team to such an extent that a liminal player like Lamela is less necessary.
Which is why that, even if he were suddenly fit, Lamela might not even make it into the starting XI for upcoming matches.
How much any of these changes affect Lamela’s future with the club remain to be seen. When healthy he remains a tricky player who can do a lot to sway matches in Spurs’ favor. Daniel Levy and Pochettino might see an opportunity to sell high on the player however.