Argentina has a fantastic track record of producing creative young talents. Prestigious clubs like River Plate and Boca Juniors have been successful in developing talents that mould into World-Class footballers. Erik Lamela is one such footballer to come through from Argentina in the recent past, and take Europe by storm.
Erik Lamela is an Argentine footballer. Born in 1992, he is currently 21 years old. He stands at about 6 feet tall.
Lamela was highly rated even as a boy, attracting interest from Barcelona for their prestigious La Masia academy. He chose to stay with River Plate however, and develop his football knowledge/
The attacking midfielder/winger started out at River Plate in Argentina, and made 36 appearances for them, where he impressed. He made his debut for the first team in 2009, but his real breakthrough came in the 2010-11 season, when he made 34 appearances, and netted 4 times.
During this period, his outrageous skill caught the eye of many clubs, especially those in the Serie A. Roma eventually won the race to sign him, with manager Luis Enrique bringing him into a side that was aiming at playing a high tempo attacking game.Lamela was a perfect fit for Roma’s new model as they aimed to rise back to the top of Italian football with a large young contingent. An approach that could prove to be highly beneficial in the long-term.
In his time at Roma, he has made 66 appearances for the club, scoring 21 goals and making 12 assists.
Style, Strengths and Weaknesses
The first thing one notices about Lamela is his skill. The player has been blessed with exceptional ability, and utilises this to good effect. He loves to dribble with the ball, and makes an average of 3 dribbles every game, with 48% of his dribbles being successful (Luis Suarez-33%, Marco Reus-38%). This is a key part of his game, and makes him very dangerous, as he can be a real match-winner, creating chances out of nothing. His driving runs with the ball particularly highlight this aspect of his game. As a result, opposing teams often have to have midfielders pay special attention to him, leaving others in space. Such attention paid to him also leads to him winning a lot of free kicks. On an average, he is fouled around 2 times every game, winning useful set piece chances for his team. He does however, leave a little to be desired on this front, as he sometimes shows too much of the ball to opposing defenders, leading to him getting dispossessed at times. Another aspect that could be improved is his running with the ball. While the driving runs are quite deadly, he tends to over-run the ball at times, leading to a break in the attacking pace.
His managers have also used him well in order to maximise this dribbling ability. Lamela is naturally a left footer, but he has mostly been used on the right side of an attacking trident. Such a position encourages him to cut inside and dribble with the ball on his strong foot. It also means that his natural movement with the ball on his strong foot is towards the goal. This is why he gets a lot of shots off, averaging about 2.6 shots every game. He also gets a good portion of his shots (58%) on target. The other benefit to his game that comes from being played as an inverted winger is that he also attempts a lot more through balls and lay offs. Lamela makes an average of 1.7 key passes per game, but only 0.5 accurate through balls. So this indicates that his through passing is slightly weak, but due to his skill with the ball, he often gets into positions where he make chances with lay-offs and other such passes.
In terms of scoring goals, he has a very good record. In the season just gone by, he has managed to score 15 goals in 33 appearances (30 starts). That’s an average of approximately 1 goal every 2 games, which is excellent, especially for someone who is started on the wing. This happens because, as a left footer, he moves into central areas a lot more, and cuts inside to shoot a lot more. A traditional winger in such a situation, generally tends to stick to the touch line, move along it and try to cross the ball more. Apart from his general positioning as well, Lamela frequently makes runs in behind defenders, especially diagonal runs behind opposing centre backs, ending up in goal scoring positions. Another aspect of his movement that adds goals to his game is the timing of the run. These diagonal runs, dangerous as they already are, are generally made late, making him even harder to mark. This results in a few headed goals for him as well, and he has demonstrated decent heading ability on the chances he has got.
His work rate is one of his weaknesses. Lamela loves to attack, and does very well when his team has the ball, but is a bit of a liability when the team is looking to defend, as he hardly makes any sort of a contribution to the defence. His tracking back is also almost negligible, leaving the full back behind him in a lot of trouble. This is a tactical problem for managers, who ideally want the winger and the full back to work as a pair.
Physically, Lamela has a great turn of pace, and good acceleration too, which helps him beat defenders. His height is also quite adequate, allowing him to compete for aerial balls. He could do a lot more in terms of his physique though, which is a bit of a weakness in his game, and lets defenders push him off. He his quite a determined player, and doesn’t pull out of tackles, or give up easily. In order to get past physical defenders, he often runs withe ball, and uses his pace to leave them trailing.
Erik Lamela has received a lot of plaudits for his performances this season, and rightly so. He has been hailed as the break out star, and with such praise, there will naturally come the attention of the ‘big boys’.
He has primarily been linked with the Manchester clubs in the rumour mills, who could both be in the market for such a player, considering the poor form of Young and Valencia, and the expected clear out at the Etihad. The United link looks very unlikely though, as he just isn’t in the mould of winger that new manager Moyes has employed at Everton. The City one, if it materialises, could be a good move for him. Though one feels he’d be a lot more suited to the La Liga, considering the skillful nature of his game and lack of physical power.
All links discussed, it would be an excellent move for him to stay put in the Italian capital, where he is an important an well loved player. If he is indeed to move to other teams in the future, he should possibly go to a team where he will get the importance he currently has at Roma, so as to continue his development.
UPDATE: Erik Lamela joined Tottenham Hotspur.