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Should Christian Eriksen start in the centre?

Christian Eriksen is the best number ten we have, so is he best used starting from the right?

A feature of our pre-season has been the interchangeable and fluid nature of our three attacking midfielders.

Starting behind the central striker, these positions have often seen Erik Lamela in the centre and Christian Eriksen on the right. The players do switch, but in the build-up phase from the back, the Dane is usually out on the flank, with the Argentinean looking to run through the middle.

Eriksen had just one goal in pre-season, a wicked free-kick against Celtic. Against the Hammers, his best strikes at goal were also from dead balls when the vanishing spray came out.

So, is he being marginalised in this new role roving from the right?

Christian Eriksen Against West Ham

Christian Eriksen started the match against West Ham in the right-sided position of the three advanced midfielders.

He was initially here as the play was built from the back, exchanging passes with Kyle Naughton.

As the play moved further forward, he drifted inside at the edge of the final third, as he moved across the field. Interestingly enough, he only received one pass in the final third, which was out on the right flank. This lead to a miss-hit crossing attempt over the bar.

christian-eriksen-pass-rec-west-ham-0-spurs-1-1st-half

Christian Eriksen passes received, 1st half.

We can see this cross on his passes played and also how he was looking to make diagonal through balls towards the penalty area.

None of them found their targets, but these attempts came from when he took up more central positions.

christian-eriksen-passes-west-ham-0-spurs-1st-half

Christian Eriksen passes played, 1st half.

Compare this to the second half. Mauricio Pochettino switched Christian Eriksen with Erik Lamela, so the Dane was now starting in the middle.

Rather than his passing map having a curve from the right in towards the centre at the final third, Eriksen now receives a lot more passes purely in the middle.

christian-eriksen-pass-rec-west-ham-0-spurs-1-2nd-half

Christian Eriksen passes received, 2nd half.

He also takes the ball much higher up, further in to the final third. The two deepest passes – the shot assist at the corner of the box and the short ball towards the area – occurred when the game was 10v11.

His passing also looked a lot more purposeful. Eriksen was still trying to play through balls, but these were more numerous, a lot straighter and more aggressive in to the box.

christian-eriksen-passes-west-ham-0-spurs-1-2nd-half

Christian Eriksen passes played, 2nd half.

He twice found Andros Townsend who got good shots away. He was also involved in the passage of play that lead to James Collins’ second yellow card, sliding the ball in to Emmanuel Adebayor on the run. What’s more, he started the move that lead to the winning goal as he found Nabil Bentaleb.

Christian Eriksen saw less of the ball after the interval, but actually seemed more involved, making bigger contributions.

Christian Eriksen in the centre or on the right?

Christian Eriksen seemed poised to take over the Adam Lallana role in Mauricio Pochettino’s system. Our new coach used the Englishman predominantly in the middle when in a 4-2-3-1, but also from the right when he went 4-3-3. So, he is not afraid to switch his playmaker around the formation.

Christian Eriksen is going to have to learn to play from both positions if he is to flourish under the new coach.

However, after a rather subdued pre-season and game of two halves against the Hammers, should Christian Eriksen now be starting in the centre or continuing on the right?



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22 Responses to Should Christian Eriksen start in the centre?

  1. Steve 20th August 2014 at 6:08 pm #

    Ryan Mason is the best number 10 at Spurs. He is a better passer of the ball than Eriksen and scores far more goals in that position.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 20th August 2014 at 6:17 pm #

      hmmmmm, lets wait until he has at least started a game for the first team.

  2. XoX 20th August 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    I tought Lamela and Ericksen were occupying the same space all the time in the first half. Lamela drifting right and Ericksen wanting to come to the center. Lennon on the left is even more annoying, I think every manager has tried it and it never works. I don t understand why every manager has to invent the wheel again.

    While I agree Ericksen is our best playmaker he somehow has never really had his best game when playing in the center. Lamela is just not ready to play through the middle in the EPL, he will be in 1 or 2 years but atm he aint convincing.
    Holtby has shown promise in the number 10 role behind the striker and I would like us to use him more often from the start: Ericksen – Holtby – Townsend.
    Would be a nice attacking trio, with good off the ball movement, penetration, workrate, passing range and finishing skills even from otside the box

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 21st August 2014 at 10:39 am #

      Eriksen has spent most of his Spurs career either drifting from the (Sherwood) or right (Pochettino), barely has been used in a central role, except when he arrived for AVB and he was playing 4-3-3.

      As said a number of times i like Holtby and Eriksen in the same midfield, but Holtby deeper and Eriksen further forward. Brings two layers of excellent passing, ball and player movement to the team.

  3. Tony Borg 20th August 2014 at 7:32 pm #

    Her has to start in the middle, Lamela and Depay would be great either side of him.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 21st August 2014 at 10:41 am #

      Slow down Tony, we’ve not signed Depay yet! I’m not even sure we’re in for him and that its not just media talk to fill transfer gossip columns.

      • Tony Borg 21st August 2014 at 10:19 pm #

        I’m not saying we have signed him, I’m saying I would like to see him there with Lamela on the other side of Christian Eriksen in the middle. Is that ok with you?

  4. phil o 20th August 2014 at 8:45 pm #

    i would play Eriksen in a deeper role, akin to a modric position for spurs, thoughts?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 21st August 2014 at 10:45 am #

      Interesting thought Phil. I don’t think he is strong enough, physically or positionally, to play deeper. I like Holtby in there though as he is combative, has much more energy and also plays better vertical passes, which is what’s required to move the ball from the base of midfield in to the attacking third. What’s your thinking behind playing him here?

      • Phil O 21st August 2014 at 11:27 am #

        people said Modric wouldn’t be strong enough, I think he has proven everyone wrong… As far as his positional sense comes in, I see Eriksen as seeing the play clearly(before most others IMO), and I believe this allows a player to move into the right positions to be able to play the right forward and or positional pass. I often see him trying to play through balls where the space is to tight, using the 433 system, I would prefer to look to get more out of his passing range when there is more of the pitch to pass into.. only thoughts.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 21st August 2014 at 11:44 am #

          Thanks Phil, appreciated.

  5. Mike H 21st August 2014 at 1:42 am #

    Agreed. Memphis (L) Eriksen (M) Lamela (R)

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 21st August 2014 at 10:59 am #

      Depay isn’t a Spurs player at the minute Mike.

  6. Zack 21st August 2014 at 4:43 am #

    Thanks for another great article Mark. Maybe next time when a team crowds out the center against us, we could play Lamela on the wing to maybe isolate him against the opposition fullback and let him work his dribbling magic.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 21st August 2014 at 10:47 am #

      I think this is why Pochettino switched the pair at half time, to get Lamela out of the centre. I really like Lamela, but feel he needs to be running forward with the ball where he can use his speed and dribbling, rather than often having to operate in congestion with his back to goal like the number ten has to do.

      • Zack 21st August 2014 at 4:21 pm #

        Also, like you mentioned in your Eriksen at Spurs article when he first joined the club, you said the fact that he is two footed really helps him as a no. 10. The fact that he can turn either way when his back is to goal and quickly take an accurate touch and be set for a pass with either foot is a great asset. Lamela slows this part of his game down by using only one foot I suppose, and makes it so that he needs to receive the ball in transit to be more effective. Either way, both are going to dominate this year so it’s all ‘swings and roundabouts’ at this point haha. Thx for your reply Mark!

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd August 2014 at 12:09 pm #

          Great point Zack, Eriksen’s two-footedness does give him an advantage in here. As the Limassol game highlighted last night, Lamela is more dangerous on the run towards goal as he showed to set up Soldado and Kane. It’s ok for him to play in the middle when there is space, but he struggles when there is congestion.

  7. SomeDude 21st August 2014 at 10:09 am #

    I liked the idea, I think it you mentioned it before, of playing him and Holtby in a 4-3-3 to try and get the ball moving quickly from side to side. Erickson is probably our best playmaker but he kinda has the Rooney disease of always wanting to be the man doing everything.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 21st August 2014 at 10:50 am #

      Good example SomeDude. Yes he likes to be involved, but whereas for Rooney this can be negative as he is required to be a goalscorer, for Eriksen this is a postive as he is a facilitator and can get scoring chances for others.

  8. Bretto 21st August 2014 at 12:25 pm #

    Great stuff Mark. Eriksen is definitely more effective in the centre as there is more scope for his deft flicks and change of direction passes (bit like the no-look passes in basketball). I was hoping that he would have Lamela on the right. Remember the game against Toronto? He gets the ball on the right, dribbles (more like glides) and waited for the opportunity to present. Love to see that more.

    Another question might be “Can we realistically have both Lamela and Eriksen on the pitch at the same time?” The problem I see is that you cannot have too many pressing passengers. I have yet to see Eriksen and Lamela consistently press nor do they look to have the fitness at the moment. Is this still in the process? Are they slowly building fitness to accomplish that? Are they both up for playing that sort of game?

    I would love to see us play like the Dortmund teams of 2010-2012 as the template. That was when Goetze, Kagawa, Barrios,Błaszczykowski, Lewandowski were playing fast and furious – and they pressed like a pack of wolves.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 21st August 2014 at 3:58 pm #

      Good point about the pressing Bretto, its something I keep watching for and I believe we are still in the process of building up to it. Lamela has been pressing and it seems to be a part of his game that is underestimated – i do remember reading some quote somewhere where he talked about enjoying this aspect of the game. It’s also something i wrote about in his introduction to Spurs post. Although i did also write that he is just as likely to come away with the ball as he is to foul and that still seems to be the case.

      Eriksen doesn’t seem to enjoy pressing so much and it doesn’t seem to be part of his natural game, so we’ll see if Pochettino can coach this in to him or not.

  9. Matthew Bacorn 21st August 2014 at 3:39 pm #

    I think Eriksen’s greatest asset is his vision. Playing him through the middle takes full advantage of this, giving him a wider field of play around him. He takes some absurd first touches away from pressure and attempts passes that no one else on our team seems to see.

    Putting Eriksen out wide restricts his possible influence. I don’t think the same is true of Lamela. Eriksen and Soldado developed a good relationship last year, particularly because the rest of the team seemed to look at their boots for the first 3 or 4 touches of the ball. I think someone with his vision and willingness to attempt the killer pass is a necessity if we are to see a big rebound from Soldado this season too. Again, only playing through the middle allows Eriksen to reward runs all across the attacking third.