Christian Eriksen became the seventh and final arrival at Spurs this summer, as Daniel Levy brought our window to a close with another exciting signing.
The Dane is not a typical trequartista that sits pulling the strings in the hole behind a central striker. He is more of a floating attacking midfielder, who can burst forward at great speed and then pick a pass or shoot with either foot.
Christian Eriksen positioning and movement
Christian Eriksen is well versed in playing in a 4-3-3 during his time at Ajax, who are famous for schooling their players in the system.
The Dane often lines up to the left of a 1-2 inverted triangle in midfield.
This allows him to start wide, drift inside, then work between the lines and drive through the opposition defence from a position behind the forwards.
Against Steaua in the Europa League last season highlighted a typical game from the Dane. Eriksen combines well with his full back and wide forward to receive the ball out on the left in the defensive and midfield zones. Further up the field, in the attacking third, he drifts in to the centre where he can float between the lines.
His movement, especially with the full back and the wide forward, allow him to create overloads and advance the ball up the pitch through dribbling and passing. He does that extremely well in the defnsive and midfield zones.
We can see that in the middle third here, where he lays the ball of to his full back, Daley Blind, who draws two defenders in.
Coupled with the movement of the wide forward to bring a third defender short, Blind then plays the ball back up the line to Christian Eriksen who now has it in space.
A quick burst pf pace and movement sets him free.
Once the ball has been advanced in this way, Eriksen can then drift in to more central locations in the final third. Here he moves between the lines across the whole pitch, as he operates as more of a floating playmaker.
From this central area, he can run with it, shoot from range, or pick out a pass to his central striker moving in-behind the defence. The fact that he is two-footed really helps him here.
Roberto Soldado has been lacking service so far and these kinds of passes would see him thrive as he likes to get behind the opposition. The Spanish striker runs the channels well, but also profits from the ball being cut back to him in the penalty area for a first time shot.
Eriksen’s movement and forward bursts allow him to get up the field. He is an effective dribbler with the ball at his feet, which means he can also get in to positions to cut it back once he has accelerated through the defence.
As looked at in “How Roberto Soldado will change Spurs,” running the channels and looking for squared and cut back balls in the area are how our new number nine likes to score.
Christian Eriksen the creator
As looked at above, the movement and positioning of Christian Eriksen mean that he is able to create goals in a number of ways.
Firstly, he is an excellent corner and set piece taker, able to hit his targets in dangerous zones with regularity.
Secondly, he can create from his ability to burst through defences with his pace and dribbling ability. This allows him to square the ball or cut it back for a team mate to fire home.
Thirdly, he is a threat to play diagonal passes to a runner in-behind, as we can see from his performance against Steaua in the Europa League. Eriksen tried to hit his central striker, Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, with diagonal passes in to or towards the box. However, he assisted on Ajax’s opener by putting a free kick on to the head of Toby Alderweireld, highlighted by the yellow line.
Christian Eriksen already has three assists in the three Eredivise games he’s played for Ajax this season. Two of these have from corners and one from a pass through the defence to a cutting Siem de Jong.
With the additional height and aerial power we’ve added, Christian Eriksen should benefit us at set pieces, as well as passes through the defence to runners on the other side.
Christian Eriksen the goalscorer
Christian Eriksen is not just a creator; he also scores goals that come in many different forms.
First up, he is an excellent free-kick taker. Eriksen not only has the ability to put the ball in to dangerous areas to create goals, he can also score directly from set pieces.
Secondly, he has an excellent shot from distance. This not only helps him convert free kicks, but also in aids him in open play, where he is a threat to fire one in from outside the box with either foot.
Thirdly, with his ability to burst through defences from his starting position in midfield, he is also a threat to run through on goal and round the keeper. Something he did quite often in the Eredivise last season and we should see this term.
Finally, he is a fan of chipping or lobbing the keeper, especially from outside the box to catch him unawares. Eriksen has an uncanny knack of noticing when the keeper is off his line and is able to put one over his head.
His main method of scoring though combines his two main strengths. His natural bursts of pace and also his ability to dribble and play neat flicks and layoffs.
These factors see him combine to go through opposition defences, as he surges forward with the ball from midfield, laying it off to a team mate.
Then bursting through the defence to receive a pass back to get in-behind the opposition.
Christian Eriksen is not a normal number ten, but his ability to score means that Ajax also use him as a false nine as well.
How will he fit in?
“He is a wonderful creative player, a good solution for our No 10 position” Andre Villas-Boas said about Christian Eriksen when he signed.
It will be interesting whether AVB deploys him from a central starting position behind the striker or whether he plays in from the left as he did at Ajax.
The Dutch side play a 4-3-3 formation, but with an inverted 1-2 midfield that forms a diamond with the central striker. The central striker can play deeper as a false nine (making the formation look a lot more like the Cruyff diamond used at Barcelona), or if he is a penalty box predator, then a lot higher up. This is not a traditional diamond, which sees two strikers ahead of a midfield four, but encourages the wide forwards to play with great width.
The deepest lying midfielder can drop in to make the formation 3-4-3 as the full backs bomb forward. Eriksen’s floating role from the left of the diamond sees him link with the full back and wide forward on that side, then burst through the inside left channel or drift in behind the central striker.
Whether Andre Villas-Boas plays Christian Eriksen in this kind of system to use his experience or whether he gives him a pure ‘role in the hole’ will be the first thing to watch for.
What Christian Eriksen brings to Spurs
Christian Eriksen may just surprise a few people with his style of play.
He can play exceptional slide-rule passes, but his game is not one of a pure trequartista trying to unlock defences. Instead his creativity comes more from his energy, direct dribbling and give-and-go passes.
Success in the Eredivise is not necessarily a guarantee that he’ll be a hit here, but he has all the tools in his locker to be an outstanding player for Spurs.