Tottenham: Mourinho has big decisions to make with Dele and Lamela

Tottenham Hotspur (Photo by Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Tottenham Hotspur (Photo by Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

Jose Mourinho has big striker decisions to make with Tottenham

Tottenham Hotspur have begun taking shape under Jose Mourinho, with a new center back pairing of Eric Dier and Davinson Sanchez. Another area of change is in the attack, where Mourinho is trying to implement some real wing play and a true second striker. Through two games back from Covid-break, Mourinho has tried two different players up-top with Harry KaneDele Alli and Erik Lamela. So, who has done it better, and what role should each play moving forward?

Dele – Lamela Game Performance

With Dele suspended for a stupid social media post, Lamela got the first shot at playing up-top with Harry Kane. In that match with Manchester United, Lamela did some things one likes and others that just were not good enough. Lamela picked up the ball in some terrific spaces both around midfield and in the attacking third. However, after getting the ball he tended to over dribble and failed to make that key final pass to break down United for Tottenham.

Like Lamela, Dele popped up in some dangerous positions, both as a facilitator and a shooter in Spurs win over West Ham. The passing piece was better for Dele than Lamela, but he failed to convert a couple of half-chances with an effort on target. You must put the ball on target to have a chance and Dele didn’t versus West Ham.

While Dele both out-passed and out-touched Lamela – 79/74% & 50/37 – the opposition in the two games was quite different as was the approach. Tottenham had the ball a lot more against West Ham than this did against Manchester United, so stats do not tell the full story. It takes more than a single performance to decide.

Differing Approaches to Operating

What makes having both Dele and Lamela available to play off Harry Kane is that they are both very different players. While both add some grit, determination, and a bit of a bad streak to Tottenham, they just do so in very different ways.

Dele is a playmaker who likes to make the big. Whether it is run over the top breaking in on goal or providing the little touch to open Lucas Moura for a big shot; Dele is looking for that big play.

One of the commonalities of these big moments from Dele is how few touches they take. Many of his key passes are off a single hold and pass or a one-touch layoff. The same is true with his goals, they are not long winding runs like Heung-Min Son, rather they are quick touches and goals like Frank Lampard running past everyone.

Alternatively, Erik Lamela is rarely playing one-touch football, rather he likes the ball at his feet and the opportunity to dribble. When successful these dribbles help put opponents on their heels and create opportunities for those around him. When Lamela is ‘on’ as he was for the most part in his 30 minutes against West Ham, he can distribute well, like his 19/19 performance versus the Hammers. However, when his passes are off like they were versus Manchester United, it hurt Tottenham big time.

Season Performance

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Ultimately, more than a game or two, it is performance over time that is going to determine who holds down that second striker spot for Spurs. If we step back and look at the full season, it does provide some perspective.

The popular thinking is that Lamela has had a bit of a renaissance season with Spurs this term providing some real hope for the future. Alternatively, despite a couple of nice performances under Mourinho initially, Dele still is not back up to form that he had a few years ago.

Comparing across the season Dele has had 9 goals and 5 assists in 35 games, whereas Lamela has had 4 goals and 3 assists in 28 games. On the surface, Dele looks clearly better, however minutes matter.

Lamela has had 1267 minutes on the pitch versus Dele’s 2346 minutes. On a per-minute basis, Dele adds a goal once every 261 minutes, versus Lamela finding the net once every 317 minutes, which is 56 minutes more often. However, Lamela sets the pace with an assist every 422 minutes versus Dele adding one, once every 469 minutes.

So, while Dele adds one more goal every hour, Lamela adds an extra assist for every 45 minutes he plays in comparison. Combined, Dele just outpaces Lamela, adding a goal or assist once every 167 minutes, compared to Lamela’s 181 minutes.

Ultimately, I think Dele should be the starter and then Lamela should come off the bench. Beyond playing style and statistics Lamela and Dele have two very different attitudes and approaches to the game. Lamela is ultra-aggressive, particularly on defense, sticking his nose in every time he gets a chance. Dele – while also a solid defender – plays a more reserved defensive role. Dele is probably better as a starter, whereas Lamela adds instant energy whenever he walks on the pitch, even if his play is not top form.

What do you think, are you going with Dele or Lamela and why? Please leave your comments below.