If anyone has been keeping count, it’s been roughly 54 weeks since right-back Tariq Lamptey made his Premier League debut.
The circumstances were, in a word, peculiar.
At the Emirates Stadium, a London derby was unfolding. In the red corner, Arsenal, who were a goal ahead courtesy of a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 13th-minute opener from a corner. In the Blue, a Chelsea side that had been blown away for the opening half-hour, and who were in desperate need of some intervention from the bench.
The first act of staunching the bleeding came in the form of a change of shape, effected by the introduction of midfield metronome Jorginho. However, it was the second throw of the dice that effectively flipped the dynamic of the game: off came Fikayo Tomori, who had manfully filled in when shunted to right-back after the reshuffle, and in came a fresh-faced, debuting 19-year-old.
The effect was immediate and blinding, like an abrupt flash of lightning singing the retina.
Suddenly, from a position of uncertainty, Frank Lampard’s Chelsea began to overload their hosts on the right flank. Lamptey’s sheer athleticism and fearlessness asked very different questions of the Arsenal defence, forcing back Bukayo Saka and more or less negating his influence on the attack. At the other end of the pitch, the debutant would not be found wanting either: his brilliant interception as the Gunners broke stopped a dangerous foray dead in its tracks, signalling his maturity and reading of the game.
Ultimately, Chelsea would turn the result around with two goals in the final 10 minutes, and even though Lamptey directly contributed to neither, he now finds himself the subject of reported interest from Arsenal: clearly, the impression he did make was big enough, and has stuck ever since.
Sure, it has helped that, since then, Lamptey has reached out and seized his destiny at Brighton and Hove Albion.
His willingness to take that plunge, as opposed to waiting in line behind Reece James at Chelsea, not only speaks highly of his own self-assurance and boldness, but has raised his profile a thousandfold.
His speed and eagerness to get forward have found a natural home at Graham Potter’s Brighton, where the back three system enables Lamptey to dash forward with abandon. The glee with which he responds to this imperative, tearing into opposing left-backs time and again, has already seen him score once, lay on another, and win two penalties this season.
While there have been chastening moments, such as in the late November win over Aston Villa, when he was sent off, his current absence due to a minor hamstring strain has severely handicapped a struggling Brighton. The Seagulls have not won any of their last four games since Lamptey went off injured against Fulham on the 16th of December, and have yet to find a suitable replacement for him within the squad—an unprecedented degree of impact for a 20-year-old inside his first year at a new club.
He is a target that would significantly boost the Gunners’ attacking play under Mikel Arteta, especially as a number of serious injuries have notably robbed Bellerin of the searing acceleration he once possessed.
However, considering this, as well as the fact Arsenal would still have both Cedric Soares and Ainsley Maitland-Niles – both of whom are part of the rotation at right-back – under long-term contracts, one wonders whether both Barcelona and PSG might not be better served cutting out the middle man entirely and going for Lamptey himself.
He certainly offers the sort of gamechanger level ability (with room to grow even further still) that would make him an immediate hit at those clubs, and he has already displayed the singlemindedness to uproot himself at a young age and adapt in a new environment.
🎧🎙️— Goal Africa (@GoalAfrica) July 12, 2020
🔵 - Were Chelsea premature in releasing Tariq Lamptey?
⚪ - Should Arsenal consider Zaha?
🔴- Should Naby Keita be consenred with rumours linking Thiago with Liverpool?
🎞️: @AfricanFtblHQ & @EddyDove pic.twitter.com/NL5lbsTUlY
A potential link-up with Mauricio Pochettino in the French capital, considering the work the Argentine manager did burnishing and elevating the talents of Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier, would be interesting in the utmost.
It really should come as no surprise that he is spoken of in these terms: his gifts are genuinely that significant.
It remains to be seen whether he will be ready for the trip to Manchester City on Wednesday, especially as Potter has been keen to avoid aggravating the hamstring issue, and rightly so. However, it is against the bigger sides in the league he has most appeared to flourish, with star turns against the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham already this term.
As such, were he to be selected here, it would be only logical to forecast fireworks. If anyone can test the Citizens newfound defensive solidity, Lamptey can.