At £30 million, Lamela represents a significant outlay for Tottenham, so one might’ve anticipated a more instantaneous impact. While that’s an understandable expectation, it‘s far too early to suggest that Lamela was an ill-advised acquisition.
In reality, it’s impossible to predict how each individual foreign import will react to the unique milieu of the Premier League, alongside the necessary cultural and personal adaptations.
Some players acclimatise to their new surroundings with consummate ease (Sergio Aguero and Paulinho immediately spring to mind), while others take a little longer to carve out their own niche (Olivier Giroud).
Lamela may well be a player that falls into the latter category, but having only been granted 68 Premier League minutes thus far, it’s incredibly premature to pass that judgement.
Lamela has largely been restricted to Europe League (and League Cup) starts, owing to his inability to usurp a resurgent Andros Townsend on Tottenham’s right flank. What glimpses we've seen of him suggest a player short on confidence and awareness, but one with all the natural mannerisms and poise of a technically gifted player.
Lamela is the first to acknowledge that he needs to prove his worth to further his Spurs career, saying via Clarin (h/t Sky Sports): "English football is much more physical while the game is more tactical in Italy...I have been talking a lot with my team-mates and I know that I have to adapt as quickly as possible if I want to ensure my place in the team and at the national team."
Although it’s encouraging to read that Lamela is searching for solutions, his failure to grasp the idiosyncrasies of the English game is entirely forgivable given his limited exposure.
Our tendency to treat footballers as commodities often dulls our perception of the humanistic side of transfers. Regardless of vocational field or wage bracket, uprooting your life and emigrating can be a daunting venture.
Couple this with the added pressure of a club-record transfer fee, and it’s not surprising that Lamela’s insecurities are being mirrored in his performances.
Andre Villas-Boas’ ability to converse with Lamela in his native language (Spanish) will be hugely beneficial towards his integration, with AVB citing the language barrier as a key area of concern, per Sky Sports:
We have been speaking a lot with him. I think getting acquainted to the Premier League is important but he doesn't know the language.
(Roberto) Soldado had some knowledge of the language before (he came) so it was a little bit easier for him.
With Erik it was a little bit more difficult but we have given him massive, massive help and his family arrived this week.
Incidentally, the arrival of Lamela’s family could well be the catalyst that inspires the young man to express himself more on the pitch—invoking the same unbridled enthusiasm that fuels Townsend’s game.
While Townsend’s form may be limiting Lamela’s Premier League opportunities, it also mitigates the immediate pressure on Lamela to perform. Football fans are an impatient sodality—especially with regards to marquee signings—so it’s a blessing that Lamela’s talent can be nurtured in a less-unforgiving domain.
The acquisition of Lamela was never under the pretence that he was the finished product.
Yes, it’s disappointing that he hasn't announced his arrival in spectacular fashion or shown the true extent of his undoubted potential.
But sometimes good things come to those who wait.