Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama in action during Spurs training.

Myth Busters: Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama can’t play together

The popular myth that Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama can’t play in defensive midfield together has been turned on its head.

Dieryama, as its known, is the partnership of Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama in defensive midfield.

The popular myth is that the pair simply cannot be played together as it hinders Tottenham’s attack. The duo brings together two defensively robust stoppers that stifle our creativity. On paper this could look like the case. However, as the season has worn on, Dieryama has excelled in to a formidable defensive and attacking partnership.

Forming a partnership

Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama have improved incomparably as a pairing. At the start of the season they were thrown together out of necessity. Mousa Dembele was serving a six-match suspension and therefore Dieryama was the only option at the base of Mauricio Pochettino’s 4-2-3-1 formation.

Throughout these matches, the pair went through a period of getting to know each other. Both were defensive midfielders and played with this mentality. The issue was that they often played at the same level, scared to concede space behind them. The base of midfield was thus far too flat.

What’s more, both became very self-conscious of their positioning when crossing the halfway line. As a result, Spurs lacked attacking ambition and struggled to progress the ball to the front men.

Upon Dembele’s return, the pairing was broken up. It wasn’t until Dembele’s injury issues resurfaced that the pair would be reunited again. By this time, Dier and Wanyama had played many more matches in the same team and so had gained a better understand of each other’s playing style.

Traditionally, one of the pairing at the base of midfield in a 4-2-3-1 is more attack minded and the other is defensively focussed. Dier and Wanyama flipped that on its head to create a true pivot. One of them goes forward and the other stays back. It gave Spurs a really good balance as they started to operate on different levels rather than as a flat pairing as they had been at the start of the season.

Victor Wanyama goes forward as Eric Dier holds his position during Spurs 2-0 Arsenal in the Premier League at White Hart Lane.

Victor Wanyama goes forward as Eric Dier holds his position.

Recovery transitions

The Dier and Wanyama partnership is unique as both players are naturally excellent at recovering the ball, but now they are also quick to transition it in to attack.

Critics of Dieryama target their lack of attacking play with the ball. However, as the season has worn on, both have improved immeasurably at this.

The following quick clip shows Victor Wanyama executing a perfect ball recovery and quick transition against Arsenal. Wanyama recovers the ball and then races out and delivers an exquisite pass to release Son Heung-Min in to the open space beyond the defence.

Eric Dier is equally good at this. This short clip shows how he takes the ball off Alfred N’Diaye to give it to Christian Eriksen, as we open the scoring up at Hull. Watch how far up the field Eric Dier has come in order to recover the ball, safe in the knowledge that Wanyama is covering him.

This press, recover, transition has been a feature of the pairing. Both players are renowned for recovering the ball, but it is their quick transition game that has been the surprise. Whether it’s a layoff or a longer pass, both players have really worked hard on this phase.

Wanyama has improved drastically, just as he showed on relieving Granit Xhaka of the ball in Spurs 2-0 Arsenal. Wanyama robbed Xhaka and then fed in Harry Kane to win the penalty for our second goal.

Victor Wanyama steals the ball from Granit Xhaka during Spurs 2-0 Arsenal in the Premier League match at White Hart Lane.

Victor Wanyama steals the ball from Granit Xhaka.

Note how Wanyama has gone to press Xhaka whilst Dier sits deeper as cover. The pair has a much better understanding with each other now that we are further in to the season.

Attacking passes

Eric Dier has always been an exceptional passer. However, the passing ability of Victor Wanyama was often a rod that critics of Dieryama would wield in their argument against the pairing.

When he arrived at Spurs, Victor Wanyama was very much a sideways passer. Now he has added more forward-thinking distribution to his game. The video clip above showed how he released Son Heung-Min against Arsenal. This next clip shows him doing exactly the same pass against Manchester United. This is not coincidence. It has definitely been worked on.

Harry Kane’s layoff allows Wanyama to demonstrate his passing ability to set Dele Alli beyond the defence. Dele won a corner and Wanyama scored from it.

Victor Wanyama has seriously improved his final third distribution. Against Arsenal, he created three chances in the match. The best of them saw him find Harry Kane who spurned a glorious 1v1 chance against Petr Cech. Wanyama was in a section of the field that he never would’ve dreamed of being earlier in the season when partnering Eric Dier. His defence splitting pass was just as impressive.

An advanced Victor Wanyama finds Harry Kane's run during Spurs 2-0 Arsenal in the Premier League match at White Hart Lane.

An advanced Victor Wanyama finds Harry Kane’s run.

Operating as a true pivot where one goes and the other sits, allows both men to show off their passing abilities. This attribute is the most underrated part of Eric Dier’s game. Given time and space, Dier can pick out anybody over any distance, just as this clip shows against Arsenal.

Eric Dier frequently looks for the ball in-behind the opposition defence. Here he combines with Victor Wanyama against Hull. The pair form a neat triangle with Ben Davies. The ball goes around the triangle and is returned to Dier. He then audaciously picks out the run of Kieran Trippier to tee up Harry Kane to put us two up.

As the above videos highlight, Dier and Wanyama are often the players that assist the actual assist. Our next goal in the game against Hull showed that once more. Dier playing in Harry Kane as Dele Alli ends up with the goal.

Eric Dier passes to Harry Kane upfront and Dele Alli scores during Hull 1-7 Spurs in the Premier League match at the KCOM Stadium.

Eric Dier passes to Harry Kane upfront and Dele Alli scores.

When Dieryama can’t play together

The Dieryama combination has gone from strength-to-strength as the season has worn on. However, the 1-0 loss at West Ham highlighted when the pairing cannot be played together. The Hammers sat deep, parked the bus and played on the counter attack.

The issue that showed their limitations can be seen in all the above videos. The pairing works exceptionally well when we have space to attack. Against West Ham, Spurs dominated possession, but simply had no pitch to pass forward in to.

The pairing is excellent against opponents where the ball can be won and a break started in to space. Our forwards have room to run and Christian Eriksen has the opportunity to pull the strings. Teams that defend deep don’t allow that and this is where the Dier and Wanyama pairing has its limitations.

Busting the myth that Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama can’t play together

The popular myth that Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama can’t play in defensive midfield together just simply isn’t true. The pairing has evolved over the season in to an excellent tandem.

The combination of Dier and Wanyama is a true pivot. Both players are able to attack and defend seamlessly. The pair co-ordinate their back and forth movements ruthlessly.

The word “Dieryama” shouldn’t fill Tottenham fans with thoughts of attacking deficiency. Ball recovery, quick transitions and a growing array of attacking passes will win doubters of the pairing over.

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16 Responses to Myth Busters: Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama can’t play together

  1. jimmy 22nd June 2017 at 9:53 pm #

    excellently true analysis..
    thats why dier should not be sold, at any cost..

    and the remarks about the asisting the last assists is marvellous..
    indeed, the way they steal the ball from others is a determinant factor..

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 23rd June 2017 at 10:10 am #

      Dier is an excellent player who is not only vital to our team’s success but also versatile as he can play in defence or midfield. You only have to watch Poch to see that he is a huge fan of his and would never sell. The only way Dier leaves is if he says he wants to go.

  2. Daudi 23rd June 2017 at 9:54 pm #

    All well put Mark, that partnership has evolved over the season to form a very productive duo in the middle of the park. The way they can exchange roles so easily is very impressive. Now we see players playing more than one position in the team, and that is another plus that we can use to our advantage. Think Jan coming into midfield when we play a back three, am pretty sure I’ve seen Dele play in a two in front of the defence as a box to box mid at some point in a game this season, and we keep on touting for Davies in a left sided back three..

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 24th June 2017 at 11:09 am #

      Player versatility is a key point for Pochettino and he seems to like to recruit multi-position players. For that reason I can’t see him letting Dier be sold. That and he is an amazing player that at just 23 is still going to improve! I also can’t see Dier going anywhere. He is a vital part of the team, there is great chemistry in the squad, we have the new training centre and a new stadium coming. Spurs are arguably the club for any young player to be at as, unlike other managers that want experienced heads, Poch gives young talent a chance. The only way I could see him going if his head has been turned by crazy money elsewhere. Although, players need to consider whether this is really worth jumping ship, especially to somewhere like Man Utd. Mourinho has a reputation for destroying young players and its only a matter of time before their dressing room turns toxic, as Mourinho has done everywhere else he’s been. Is this really worth the extra money?!

      • YouShubes 24th June 2017 at 3:29 pm #

        Do you think this is something that Poch will demand McDermott et al produce for him at Hotspur way… young players who are technical, athletic, tactically aware and versatile..or do players become versatile over time. Certainly Dier being taught at Sporting, Verts, Toby and Eriken getting their grounding at Ajax makes me think we cannot do that quite yet.

        Clealry Winks, Onomah, even bring back Eriksen deeper is an effort to lessen the load on Dembele who despite the awards given to other players is probably our most irreplaceable of his players as his combination of strength and movement with the ball is very rare.

        It is almost homage of sorts by Poch to the wanderer’s pair of Viera and his partners over at their best. I do think it helps that both Dier and Wanyama are ‘leaders on the pitch’ something Poch seems to value highly. Wanyama is the Kenyan captain, and we saw Eric and Kane having a “discussion” during the Engald France game :D, with both “firmly expressing” views :D

        If we can get wingers like Lemar and Sessgnon along with Sonny showing the quality that sadly them lot down the road showed maybe we can become a second set of invincibles,

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 24th June 2017 at 8:12 pm #

          I think we’ve been seeing it for a while, whether it’s through buying or developing, that Poch wants very good young players with a high football IQ. In that way they are coachable and able to adapt to different systems quickly.

  3. Matt 24th June 2017 at 8:48 am #

    Great analysis. I’m a convert to Dieryama, the progress made was noticeable, arguably moreso in Wanyama (who was my player of the year) than Dier. Keeping Dier is a huge test for us. I’m biased, in terms of personal progression, Poch versus Mourniho is a no brainer. Hope Dier sees it that way. His versatility is key.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 24th June 2017 at 11:16 am #

      I wasn’t keen on them as a pairing at all earlier in the season and was vocal about it, so its crazy for me not to sing their praises now that they have become an extremely talented dynamic duo. I still think there is a place for Mousa Dembele as he is a vital player, especially against teams that sit deeper or if we want to use Dier as part of a back three. However, the establishment of this pair affords Dembele the luxury of not having to play 90 minutes twice a week on painkilling injections for his ongoing hip and foot problems. Poch can manage his mileage and get more out of him over a season, so its a win-win as far as I am concerned.

  4. Matt 24th June 2017 at 1:56 pm #

    Agree re Dembele, he is unique and I think you simply play him less. Wrap him up a bit but don’t flog him in EPL and CL. Against certain opponents. Also for me Onamah was a revelation as a holding midfielder as well. Obviously he was playing against youngsters and he’s. It close to Dieryama yet but I had simply not realised that was his position. He looked very assured. I can see why the club rate him and he could certainly be used a bit on rotation in the cups assuming he’s not loaned. So that’s the holding mids sorted, now for that electric paced AM that we need!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 24th June 2017 at 8:01 pm #

      Yes it’s curious that we’ve used Onomah in a variety of advanced roles, especially wide, when he clearly prefers to play deeper in central midfield. Poch does like him and says he’ll be more involved this season, so it’ll be interesting to see how many minutes he gets this year and if it’s in his preferred central role.

  5. DierWolf 26th June 2017 at 5:49 pm #

    Fantastic article, I agree with you completely. The last few weeks of the season after Winks got injured and Dembele not being fully fit either I was worried but these 2 did the job really well.

    Going into the new season, what sort of signings do you think would fit us? I think we need a creative player with pace, right now Son is our only quality pacey player but he is more of a finisher type. Maybe we need a Thomas Lemar or Gelson Martins but it looks unlikely.

    Also Dier playing at DM primarily would leave us short at CB, do you think we need another CB? If so, should it be an experienced type (thus not hindering Cameron Carter Vickers in the long run) or a young CB? Or do you prefer Dier at CB and perhaps buy a CM?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 27th June 2017 at 3:33 pm #

      Good questions DierWolf. I keep changing my mind with regards to signings as I think Poch is trying to bring players through eg Onomah, Walker-Peters, Winks, CCV, Sterling, Edwards and not hinder their paths, but also add quality depth to the squad. Therefore I think we will see very few arrivals. Lemar would be a good signing as he provides something which none of the aforementioned names do, maybe except for Edwards, but we face stiff competition to get him. Martins is also in that bracket as is Suso who would be a great signing. I liked Bruma and Zaha at the start of the summer, but both have made moves, Bruma to Leipzig and Zaha has signed a new deal. Emil Forsberg is another i’d like to see us go for as I think he can really offer us goals and assits from wide.

      I don’t think we need another centre back as Dier only plays with Wanyama in defensive midfield when we play a 4-2-3-1. If Dier drops in to a three centre back system then we have Dembele, Winks and Onomah who can all come in to midfield to partner with or rotate for Wanyama. This is especially true if Poch is going to bring through CCV and don’t want to hinder his development. We have enough cover for Toby and Jan in a back four with Dier, CCV, Davies and even Wanyama all able to play at the back. Dier can play in a three, as can Ben Davies and this also might be the best system to bring CCV through as he’ll have experienced heads in Toby and Jan alongside him. So, basically, we have a load of options depending on what formation we are using and bringing in another defender will either only hinder development or use an unnecessary squad position as we have so many options in defence and midfield already.

  6. Toby4eva 27th June 2017 at 8:23 am #

    Great work as usual Mark.

    Dier won’t be going anywhere – especially Utd.

    Forget Dieryama.

    Dele would be a mess!



    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 27th June 2017 at 3:36 pm #

      Dele would be a mess if Dier left, their bromance would be in tatters ;)

  7. Toby4eva 27th June 2017 at 12:25 pm #


    It’s no mystery that Dieryama only been made possible since Poch assumed the Silver Chair!


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 27th June 2017 at 3:45 pm #

      Staggering to think that Poch signed them both for a combined fee of £15 million!