Dissecting the mind of Christian Eriksen
There are few minds in football that can compare to Christian Eriksen. The Dane is arguably Tottenham's best and most important player, and without him, the north London side look different and drab. He makes the team tick, and here’s how.
At the back end of last season, Spurs lined up with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Eriksen starting out wide.
This season, however, Spurs play a fluid 3 behind Kane, with Eriksen drifting into the half space, pinging in balls for Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli. This is how Spurs tend to look after the three players change their positions.
Eriksen works well with full-backs Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies who carry the ball forward from defense to give to Eriksen, who pulls all the strings. Eriksen covered a whopping 418.88km in the league last season, second only to former teammate Gylfi Sigurdsson.
It is therefore evident that he runs the show in midfield for Spurs, often going back to help in deeper areas of the field, and then moving up the field and creating chances for the three natural attackers, while also bagging more than a few goals himself.
Eriksen finished the 2017/18 Premier League with double digits for both goals and assists, which is a great accomplishment.
During the Champions League tie away at Juventus, Eriksen played deeper as a number 8. After Spurs had conceded twice in the first ten minutes thanks to a Gonzalo Higuain brace, Eriksen, who again started on the right, drifted into the midfield, which in turn made Eric Dier form a three-man defence with Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sanchez.
He pulled the strings after the half-hour mark, creating chance after chance, most notably one for Harry Kane.
Eriksen whipped the ball in from the edge of the box which Kane would have scored if it wasn’t for the acrobatics of Buffon. He then took the ball off of Chiellini, which found its way to Dele who played Kane in to make it 2-1 before half time. However, the second half was where the Dane really picked up.
Alongside Moussa Dembele, the pair ran the midfield, with Dembele carrying the ball and winning tackles while Eriksen created chance after chance for the front three, which they really should have converted.
Dele Alli was then bought down on the edge of the box and won a free kick for Spurs. Eriksen took the set-piece and scored, curling a clever ball under the wall and past a bewildered Buffon. The game was saved and Eriksen won many plaudits, as well as receiving Man Of The Match.
For Denmark, the midfield maestro has more of a free role. Being Denmark’s talisman, Eriksen is played by his manager Åge Hareide in his usual number 10 role with Dortmund’s Delaney and one of William Kvist or Lasse Schöne pairing up behind the Spurs man.
During the World Cup qualifiers, Eriksen scored 11 goals, which was the third highest tally, only behind Bayern's Lewandowski and 5-time World Player Of The Year and footballing icon Cristiano Ronaldo, who are both out-and-out attackers.
When the Danes travelled to Dublin for their World Cup play-off final against Ireland, all eyes were on Eriksen as he was the difference between the two squads and the one ‘World Class’ player on the pitch. This is how his side lined up against the Irish.
Eriksen was again given a free role, and it paid off. He scored a hat trick, with Yussuf Poulsen and Pione Sisto being instrumental, the Danes booked their place for the 2018 World Cup. Eriksen picked up the ball on the edge off the opposition box and simply slotted three past a disheartened Randolph in goal.
A very similar approach was used in this year's World Cup which resulted in Denmark reaching the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time in 16 years. Eriksen bagged 1 goal and 1 assist and is looking to go one better with his nation the next time out in Euro 2020.
More recently, in November of the past year, Spurs played Chelsea.
Spurs started with a fairly narrow diamond with Son playing in behind Kane and Dele Alli playing as a free attacking midfielder. Eriksen partnered Eric Dier and Moussa Sissoko in a three-man midfield behind Dele. This game was going to be a real test of the Dane's fitness. He managed to run the show in midfield and bag himself 2 assists and 2 other chances created from a deep-lying playmaker role, similar to that of Ivan Rakitic from Barcelona. This marked another fine display from an unusual position from Tottenham's maestro.
Irrespective of what the future holds for the magician, he has made a name for himself, with Europe’s big boys looking at him to improve their midfield and Spurs keen to keep their star man for as long as they possibly can.