Eric Dier: doing it with distribution

Eric Dier has been receiving rave reviews for his defensive work, but his distribution is catching the eye as well.

Eric Dier has been the surprise of the season. His rapid growth in to one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League is astonishing. Not from the level of his ever-improving talent level, but by just how quickly he is settling in to and blossoming in the role.

Being a defensive midfielder, his primary function is to protect his back four, sniff out danger and shut it down. Dier has done that tremendously this season and its one of the reasons why we have conceded so few goals in the Premier League.

His size and evolution as a centre back has meant that he is a natural for Mauricio Pochettino’s system. The holding midfielder sometimes has to drop in to the back line in the defensive phase and here he feels comfortable and at home. He also has to move in-between the split central defenders to make a back three to bring the ball out. It is in this distribution phase that Dier has equally excelled and one that is highly important for the team. Having a player that can pass well from these areas gets our attacks moving more readily. It also transitions the ball quickly to the forward players before the opposition’s defence can get set.

Eric Dier moving the ball

Eric Dier is quickly becoming a cult figure in the middle of the park for his strength, energy and toughness. His ball recovery statistics are often circulated after matches and images, such as him dumping Alexis Sanchez on the floor and beckoning him to get up, go viral on social media.


Eric Dier is not intimidated by Alexis Sanchez.

But its his distribution and also pitch coverage that is now really starting to catch the eye. Dier is now moving the ball much quicker when in possession, often from the opposition’s half. What’s more, he’s passing a lot more forwards and, even occasionally, over distance.

A great example of this was Premier League match day four at home in the o-o with Everton. Dier really covered the full length of the pitch in this match. He not only dropped in-between centre backs Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen to move and bring the ball out, but he also got himself forward in to the Everton half. This saw him play a number of aggressive through balls in to or towards the penalty area and even attempt to cross.


Eric Dier passes played, Spurs 0-0 Everton.

His distribution was effective. Everton were playing a central trio in order to counteract our numbers in the middle and Eric Dier looked on several occasions to miss them out by spraying the ball over the top of them.


Eric Dier goes long to find Chadli.

This diagonal out to Nacer Chadli was a highlight in his game. It’s a pass we regularly see Toby Alderweireld attempt and it is becoming part of Dier’s make-up too.

Another example was his beautifully long-lofted chip pass out for Kyle Walker to pluck out of the air at Bournemouth in the 5-1 thumping of the Cherries, which saw us win a corner that we subsequently scored from.

What has helped Eric Dier in his passing progression is his experience of playing at centre back, but also at right back. The tackling and physical side of his game has never been in doubt, but his natural ability on the ball is now being used by Mauricio Pochettino to great effect.

Against Aston Villa, Eric Dier once more demonstrated this, as he again moved the ball out from the back, but also looked to get it forward when in the opposition’s half.  This saw him play a number of passes in to or towards the penalty area, but also over distance as he looked to go quickly forwards.


Eric Dier passes played, Spurs 3-1 Aston VIlla.

What was also noticeable once again was his ability to cover the ground. Eric Dier doesn’t play as a traditional defensive midfielder that likes to loiter in front of his back four or around the halfway line. He joins the action and moves up the pitch, as he has the speed and stamina to recover his position when an attack breaks down.

This sees him move further up the field as we progress the ball forward, but he also does this to help to hem the opposition in when pressing. Dier thus has a much higher position than standard defensive midfielders, as we seek to use him as a containment valve to win the ball back quickly and further up the field. His goal against Manchester City highlighted just this, as he was swept in behind our initial wave to hoover up Kevin De Bruyne’s errant pass out and lash it back in to the goal with interest.

What having Dier move in this way also does is allow him to play the ball from much higher positions up the pitch when we win it back. Rather than just use him to pass the ball out from in-between our split centre backs and then assume his job is done, Dier then has to move up the pitch as the ball goes further forward. This sees him get possession and become much more of a factor up the field, as he can use his distribution skills. Whether this is passing out to the sides of the formation to keep possession flowing or looking to play a more aggressive vertical pass, it gives Eric Dier a much fuller role in the system than just being a ball winner.

Eric Dier doing it with distribution

The evolution of Eric Dier from centre to right back to defensive midfielder seems to know no boundaries.

After getting to grips with his positioning, the improvement in his ball distribution has been the next step in his development in to what Mauricio Pochettino wants from the player in this role. His natural ability on the ball has been harnessed and this is getting our attacks moving forward much more quickly and often from higher up the pitch. While it may go unnoticed during games, Dier’s talent to move the ball out and often forwards is making a real difference to the team.

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15 Responses to Eric Dier: doing it with distribution

  1. YouShubes 12th November 2015 at 7:42 pm #

    Is it bad that I am really surprised how well he had done there. I guess Spain tomorrow will be a real litmus test for him (if picked). How soon before Real come a calling?

    I have just jinxed it now haven’t I?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th November 2015 at 12:06 pm #

      I am confident that we now have a better chance to keep players given the way we are building something with youth and the team spirit that Poch has created. I don’t think any team can resist Real Madrid and Barca when they come calling, but hopefully our young lads will think twice that the only thing greener may just be the money.

  2. Reinert 12th November 2015 at 8:59 pm #

    If you think you can jinx Dier, YouShubes, he will just assess you scornfully and ask you to get back up on the hype-train ;)

    Great piece, Mark! I hope you have more of it coming in the club-football draught :)

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th November 2015 at 12:08 pm #

      lol don’t mess with Dier! Thanks for reading Reinert, have a few things in the pipeline.

      • Reinert 13th November 2015 at 10:51 pm #

        That is soothing to my nerves, I will be looking forward to your posts :) I was thinking about how our play decays when either Dembele or Lamela (or both) is subbed off. Is that why Pochettino waits so long before making the change? I mean, Lamela was a walking red card at times at the Emirates, but was subbed off at a time, just when Arsenal got back into the match.. Are we now too reliant on the retention of Dembele or the press of Lamela?

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 14th November 2015 at 6:11 pm #

          Good question Reinert, I don’t think we are too reliant on them. They are two players that are effective, especialy against teams that try to come forward against us, and so therefore we don’t get overpowered. In the Arsenal game they were both playing well and we suffered a bit when they went off, for sure, but that was just one game. Just for example, Dembele didn’t even feature in the 4-1 thumping of Man City where we were also just as awesome and he has missed a number of other games eg 1-0s over Sunderland and Palace. I think both Lamela and Dembele serve a purpose and do a job in certain match scenarios. But, just for another example, against teams that sit back we need to explore other options eg Eriksen back as the number ten and more forward thinking passers deeper in the formation eg Mason. I like the options that we have now and it gives us flexibility against a variety of opponents, its just a matter for Pochettino to explore these combinations and find pairings that work.

    • YouShubes 16th November 2015 at 9:06 am #

      More in that Real tap him up!

      He’s probably not a big enough name yet.

      I think at home would like to see Eriksen back at #10. Him and Mason vs any bus parkers would be quite handy

      Look forward to seeing your preview for the West Ham match now payet is out. Would have been an interesting riddle to solve

  3. Reinert 14th November 2015 at 10:46 pm #

    This is true, but also, when Dembele played the match before, I definitely felt some kind of unbalance after he was substitured. Maybe it is all in my head,but it feels like the other players doesn’t switch on in the areas Dembele usually covers, if he has played the match. I am not sure if I word this correctly.. it is not really important though :)

  4. Mos 16th November 2015 at 5:08 pm #

    Hi Mark,

    After watching the game against Spain we looked poor, and quite a lot has been made of a lack of identity, although I obviously have spurs-bias what are your thoughts on playing the Poch way fro England.
    For me its slightly overlooked – Poch has contributed so many players to the England set-up – meaning that most of the positions would/could be filled by players knowing the system – then ofcouse- there are a few that are not accustomed to the system but are good players and could be sprinkled in depending on the team.

    Below would be an example of a starting line up.

    Lallana Rooney Townsend
    Dier Alli
    Shaw Smalling Stones Clyne

    Additional players played under poch: Jay-rod, Rose, Walker, Mason, Ward-prowse, Matt Targett.

    Players that would naturally fit into the system Vardy, Delph,

    Throw in players such as: Sterling, Jones, Jagielka/Cahill Sturridge, Barkley, Berahino , Barkley

    What are your thoughts on this?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th November 2015 at 6:54 pm #

      Interesting suggestion Mos. There are a number of England players that have played for Poch so it could potentially work. On the flip side, it would mean that you are limiting the pool of players that know the system, unless Pochettino was coaching the team, which i’m sure no Spurs fan wants to see ;)

  5. anotherwisemonkey 19th November 2015 at 6:38 pm #

    I flippin’ love this kid. Such a humble, honest professional who gives 100% all the time.

    Looking forward to your West Ham preview.

  6. SpurredoninDublin 23rd November 2015 at 6:44 pm #

    Delighted to read this post. As someone who has gone on the record in admitting that I was less than impressed when I first saw Kane, and was convinced that Rose would never make a full-back, I think I am entitled to also claim,”This is one that I got right” regarding Dier.From the very first time I saw him, I thought that he was going to be special.The only thing that I didn’t foresee was his conversion to DM.

    You might recall in my last post, I mentioned that when MoPo made this decision, I began to think that maybe we did have a manager that knew what he was doing.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 24th November 2015 at 6:33 pm #

      I’m not sure many of us saw his conversion to defensive midfield. I remember heavily criticisng this, as he looked like a fish out of water in pre-season and against Man Utd on opening day. Extremely happy Poch stuck with it!

      • SpurredoninDublin 25th November 2015 at 10:41 am #

        That’s what I like about this blog. It is inhabited by mere mortals who are honest enough to tell you, “I was wrong”.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 25th November 2015 at 4:26 pm #

          Can’t be right every time :) and its nice to be proved wrong with things like this that turn out so well.