It’s been the view of many Spurs fans for a long while now. Build the team around Christian Eriksen and make him central to our plans. So why do we continue to see him being used starting from a wider position?
“I am a player who loves to get on the ball,” stated Christian Eriksen on Monday. This was the first time the player himself had actually come out and said something that hinted at his wish to be more invovled.
He continued with “I don’t think you have anything of me if I don’t have the ball.”
The comments followed a game where Eriksen had once more been used by Mauricio Pochettino to drift in from the left. It was a ploy that saw him struggle to influence the game against the Tigers. It wasn’t until he was moved in to a central position, where he could get on the ball more, that the Dane dominated.
Mauricio Pochettino does like to coach his forward thinking players to interchange positions. So far though, we’ve infrequently rolled this out, whilst looking disjointed and not always that fluid in attack when operating in this way. Everyone seems to end up playing through the centre and the formation is extremely narrow.
However, it’s not the first time this season we’ve seen Christian Eriksen become a growing influence on a match after being switched to the middle.
Christian Eriksen against West Ham
Our first game of the season and a switch of Christian Eriksen from the right to the centre played a big part in turning the match.
The Dane started out on the right flank whereby he worked ahead of his full back, then drifted towards the centre as he reached the final third of the pitch.
This saw Eriksen operate in front of both Kyle Naughton and subsequently Eric Dier after our starting right back was given his marching orders.
When on the ball, his passing was trying to get it towards the penalty area when he had drifted in to middle, but he was also forced to go backwards and square.
Eriksen is not the best defensive player and offers his full back very little cover, so at half time, Mauricio Pochettino moved him in to the centre. Aaron Lennon, a better defensive shield for his full back, was put out on the right.
This saw Christian Eriksen more able to take up central positions to receive the ball. It became easier for him after James Collins received a red card, but it was his through ball that Emmanuel Adebayor was trying to run on to that resulted in the West Ham man being dismissed.
From starting in a central position, he not only was able to get on the ball more, as he desires, but also to attempt more through balls in to or towards the penalty area. Something he was trying to do when Collins hauled down Adebayor.
Christian Eriksen against Sunderland
If the play of Christian Eriksen at West Ham had hinted at a more permanent central switch, another clue was given against Sunderland.
This time the Dame was actually moved in the other direction and he drifted out of the game after the switch out wide, only to be replaced.
In the first half we dominated and Christian Eriksen was at the heart of it, pulling the strings from the centre.
He was always available to receive the ball and buzzed around between the lines. This allowed him to try a number of through balls towards the penalty area, creating good shooting chances for Adebayor and Rose.
Both of these passes showed his outstanding vision, especially a scooped one to Adebayor over a Sunderland defence that was trying to crowd him out.
After the interval, he was first moved out to the left and then over to the right, from where he was supposed to drift in centrally.
This really had a stifling effect on his creativity, as he went from peppering the penalty area with through balls to offering very little.
He was eventually brought off for Aaron Lennon as Mauricio Pochettino tried to mitigate the threat of Adam Johnson down our right flank against Eric Dier.
Christian Eriksen against Hull
On Sunday, Christian Eriksen was again moved from a starting position out wide in to the centre and once more heavily influenced the game.
In the first half, he was tasked with drifting in-field from the left and he struggled to get on the ball.
His passing reflected this, as he rarely got the chance to move the ball in to or towards the opposition penalty area.
A rare opportunity from drifting in to the middle saw him get between the lines to set up Erik Lamela. Unfortunately his shot that was easily saved by Hull Keeper Allan McGregor.
Just after the interval and the game swung on Gaston Ramirez’s red card. This was really the best thing to happen for Eriksen, as with the removal of Mousa Dembele and the introduction of Aaron Lennon, the Dane was moved in to the middle.
It was against ten men, but such as his wish, Eriksen could get on the ball even more and in areas he likes to be.
This meant he could also try and pick the Tigers apart with his passing in to or towards the penalty area. The vision and quality of these passes were much better after the interval.
He of course scored the wining goal, but it was his movement that was getting him in to good positions to pass and shoot, as he was able to drift between the lines.
Eriksen appears to be a much better player at locating the pockets of space when moving up and down the pitch, rather than when having to drift inside to find them from a wider starting position.
Christian Eriksen consistently in the centre?
After being subbed off in his last two matches, the joyous reaction of Christian Eriksen after his winning strike at Hull was there for all too see.
Too often this season the Dane has been used from a wider starting position or is a victim of the interchangeable nature of Pochettino’s system whereby others crowd him out of the middle. We’ve seen less of this fluidity being practiced by our new coach than he used at Southampton, but when we have tried it, Eriksen often suffers.
He has expressed his desire to be on the ball and we should give it to him. Christian Eriksen is our best creative force and he should be used in a position that takes advantage of this.
Some good analysis here. Eriksen can only really play in the middle. The problem at the minute is that Lamela also wants to play in the middle, rather than stay out on the wing.
I’d like to think that Lamela will eventually turn into a devastatingly good no. 10 – but he needs to improve on a lot of aspects before he gets there, most importantly his upper body strength.
Poch needs to get strict and stick Lamela out on the wing for the rest of the season while he builds himself up, and free the no.10 role for Eriksen to influence play much more.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
You make some good points LevyOut. Lamela does drift inside due to his inverted forward role. I don’t see him as a conventional number ten as he can’t play with his back to goal at the minute. He is much better when running forwards towards goal with the ball at his feet where he can use his dribbling skills. He also needs space to work in, whereas Eriksen is much better at finding it in congested areas and playing with his back to goal.
Football is a simple game often made more complicated by managers. Any analysis of Spurs last season by Poch would have made it abundantly clear Eriksen is the man to build the team around. If players used their football brains they would look for Eriksen and know which areas he wants to play in.
Lamella is not good enough yet to play centrally. That area should be Eriksen’s when he is on the field. To help Eriksen even more a winger playing wide would also open up space for him in the centre. It would also allow the creation of the type of service Soldado relies on.
Its about time Poch worked out the best system for the players he has available and stop trying to make them play roles they are either unable or unwilling to perform!!.
I completely agree with this. We really need Lennon to play on the right. He has a very good understanding with Eriksen as seen last season. With Lennon glued to the sideline it will open so much space in the centre for Eriksen that he really needs to open up these teams that just sit back and defend.
Pochs biggest mistake is how he wants all his wing players to cut in to the centre and close all space and completely shut down Eriksens ability to create.
Poch has really disappointed me so far. Sherwood was actually a lot better because with his tactics there was so much space all over the field and Eriksen is like a kid in a candy store in matches like that. Thats why we won all the matches against the smaller teams last season. When playing small teams we really need to open the field up instead of closing it down like Poch is doing this season against all teams.
I agree entirely. i want us to stick with a manager for once and I believe in Poch but you do not get the feeling we have much character when we only win against 10 men. I am not sure making an injury prone and aging Kaboul captain was a good idea – especially as it was based on the opinion of over paid and spoilt players. Verts would have been my bet – i cannot believe he is not selected for every game – he would be one of the first names on the team sheet. As you say, poch needs to start getting it right….and find a spine for the team and pick the right leaders. Adebayer as vice captain? The guys ego is far to large to be a team man.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
It was interesting how at Hull Kaboul (Captain) and Adebayor (Vice Captain) were both missing, leaving Hugo as Captain which was the choice Pochettino should’ve made all along.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Great post Scorpio, it does seem as if we may be over-complicating it at the minute!
So with Hugo, Eriksem and say Verts as our undroppables
Who are the other 8? How do we line up
Playing inverted wingers like Ribery and Robben is like playing inverted guard.you have to be very good at playing it not just ok as it is high risk (loss of width) vs high reward (goals from the flanks)
Mr. Greaves says
An article that states quite clearly what should be obvious to the man charged with managing our team.
MP was a very poor choice for us with nothing in his locker to suggest he could do the job we needed, and it is sad to watch him prove this at our expense this year.
Some tactical things should be obvious to even a blind man, yet MP ignores them.
His use of Eriksen is but one , and I am sure we could all list at least 5 other significant ones.
I think we should keep it simple, Lennon on the right, Lamela (or Townsend) on the left, Eriksen in the whole, sometimes with 1 Striker & 2 holding mids or other times with 2 strikers and 1 holding mid. Harsh on Chadlington as he’s Neen good this year, but can play off either wing, in the hole or as a second striker if needed.
Thanks for another interesting article. If I may take issue with Mike, IMHO I don’t think you could describe Lennon against Hull as “glued to the sidelines”; I wish he had been, but he kept drifting inside, didn’t he?
Its Poch’s tactics isn’t it? He wants his wingers to drift inside making it very narrow in the middle. So you are right it probably doest really matter if Lennon plays right if he is told by Poch to drift inside all the time.
I think a player like Eriksen is a lot better when he gets more width from his wingers.
Its a shame Levy didn’t choose Frank De Boer in the summer when he had the chance. He knows how to build a team around Eriksen. But i guess Levy wanted to protect his investment in Lamela so choosing an Argentine to revive his career was what he went with.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
He did move inside when Vlad was overlapping, but the pair did work together well. One minute Vlad was wide sticking in a cross that Soldado scuffed past the post with Lennon moved inside. Moments later and Lennon was out wide crossing for Kane who fluffed a header. Lennon and Vlad’s dovetailing was a bright spot of the second half.
instead of playing a narrow 4231 with invert wingers always cutting in, which we always lack widths, it could be interesting to try a 442 diamond formation with Lamela picking up the no. 10 role and eriksen plays behind him along with mason/bentelab, and we have either stambouli playing as defensive midfielder. Then we could have Kane playing alongside Soldado, who are both struggling playing as lone striker but worked pretty well together. We understand in poch’s system full backs are meant to cover up both flanks up-and-down. not worried about not having enough width cos’ I am reckon Rose and Davies are capable to provide the pace required when we are under counter-attack. Furthermore, stambouli could provide enough cover for our vulnerable gap between the midfielders. my only concern is neither naughton(too defensively minded) nor Dier (natural CB who had been used as utility defender for right back) could offer enough for the role. It would be great if Walker could regain his form quickly, and we have a decent youngster Yedlin competing the position with him.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Great suggestion Cosmund. A diamond formation could work. As you say, we’d just need to get some pace and more attacking intent from the right back position.