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.