Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino says Erik Lamela can recover his best form after he scored his fist goal for the club in 16 months but warned that competition for starting places is getting tougher.
The Argentina international, who was sidelined for more than a year with a hip injury before returning to action in November, scored his first goal since September 2016 as Spurs beat Newport County 2-0 in Wednesday’s FA Cup fourth-round replay.
A first-half own goal from Newport defender Dan Butler put Spurs on course for a routine victory at Wembley before Lamela quickly added a second to set up a trip to Rochdale in the next round later this month.
Pochettino praised 25-year-old Lamela’s attitude in battling back to fitness.
“He was more than one year out and it’s never easy to come back and perform in that way that he was before,” he said.
“But he should because he loves football and he loves training and I think his mentality is fantastic.
“I think it’s going to be easy to recover his real level, or improve because he’s more mature and you learn. In a tough moment you learn a lot, no doubt. It’s important because he’s an important player.”
Toby Alderweireld played for the first time since November 1 and is now in contention to face Arsenal in Saturday’s north London derby.
Harry Winks and Danny Rose also returned, having been out since Boxing Day, along with Serge Aurier, who has been struggling with a calf strain.
“Now we are 24 players and it will be tough to find a place in the starting XI for everyone — 24 players that fight to be on the starting XI every single game,” Pochettino said.
“And I think it’s a very good thing for us because we are going to increase our level and in that very busy period we need all focused, trying to give their best.”