Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham side travel to North London rivals Arsenal on Sunday afternoon, where a win will boost Spurs’ chances of securing a top four spot this season, whilst it would all but end the Gunners’ hopes of achieving the same goal.
After some impressive performances of late, including in the 2-0 win against Dinamo Zagreb in midweek, the Portuguese manager should consider unleashing Erik Lamela against the Gunners.
The Argentinian has produced some superb cameo appearances from the bench in recent domestic fixtures and has been excellent in both of his last two starts in the Europa League, earning an 8.28 WhoScored rating for his performance against Wolfsberger and a 7.19 rating in the win against Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday.
The former Roma man, who reportedly earns £80,000 per week at Tottenham, played a huge part in Spurs’ opening goal against the Croatian side as he produced an excellent piece of skill on the edge of the box before seeing his outside-of-the-foot shot come back off the post, leaving Harry Kane with a tap-in.
Mourinho is a big fan of Lamela, having praised his willingness to play against Chelsea last season despite carrying a knock, saying: “That’s Lamela. Amazing guy, fantastic player and trying to help the team.”
These are the sorts of attributes which can be vital, particularly in derby games, and Lamela has shown that he loves to get stuck in and win the ball back under Mourinho. He has averaged 1.8 tackles per game in the Europa League for Spurs so far this season, so he could be a game-changer in the Emirates Stadium if he can win the ball back high up the pitch and kickstart a counterattack.
Considering he has just five starts in the Premier League this season, most recently against West Ham last month, it would be something of a risk to start the 29-year-old for such an important game. However, considering Arsenal’s tendency to give the ball away in dangerous positions, having a workhorse such as Lamela in an attacking midfield role could turn the game in Spurs’ favour.
Mourinho also described Lamela as “chaotic” recently and that is perhaps the exact sort of player who could make the difference for Spurs in what is likely going to be a tough match for the Lilywhites at the home of their arch-rivals.
Therefore, the Portuguese manager should take a risk and hand the 29-year-old just his sixth start of the Premier League season in the hope that he can be the game-changer in the derby.