Eric Dier is predictably happy with his playing time at Tottenham Hotspur. Why shouldn't he be? The 20-year old English CB found himself thrust into a starting position in the first match of Spurs' season and had a glorious beginning to his Spurs career, scoring two goals.
It hasn't always been great football, however. Dier recently gave an interview as reported by respected Spurs journo Ben Pearce where he talked about his acclimation back to English football with Tottenham after spending his youth days in Portugal, his delight with his early playing time, and the steep learning curve thrust upon him after injuries to Kyle Walker and Kyle Naughton.
"I'm really happy," Dier said. "I didn't expect to get off to the start that I did and I'm really happy to have played so many games - just because it's my first year in English football and I'm quite young.
I've learned a lot. I've made mistakes and learned a lot in such a short period of time, playing Liverpool and Man City - and it's every team really. I've learned something in every game so it's really good."
There are lots more good quotes from Dier about his game, his experiences, and his relationship with other young Spurs stars, and I encourage you to read through the article in its entirety.
We've talked about, dissected, and rehashed Eric Dier's recent performances at right back for Spurs ad nauseum lately. The verdict is: apart from those two early games against West Ham United and Queens Park Rangers, Dier has not been great. In fact, he's been involved in a plurality of the goals scored against Tottenham in the past few games, either due to mistakes made on the pitch, inexperience, or the opposition targeting him on the right side. He's made his fair share of errors, and he should be held accountable for those errors.
However, it's very easy to demonize a player like Dier: a 20-year old player new to the Premier League and playing out-of-position in a role handed to him out of extreme necessity. While Dier certainly isn't the best option at right back for Spurs, the one thing he is gaining through these early games is invaluable experience in the position.
When we talk about developing young players at Tottenham Hotspur, as we have all week on Cartilage Free Captain in three recent articles, the best thing you can do for a young talent is give them games, and let them make mistakes. Sammy Ameobi's goal after halftime of the Newcastle match is the latest (and most frustrating) example, but it's the kind of learning opportunity that every young footballer needs to experience in order to improve his game. Tottenham's opponents see Dier as a weak spot in the defense, and for good reason. But based on his comments above and elsewhere in Pearce's article, Dier has the right attitude. He knows he's been given a great opportunity. He knows he has things to work on. He's doing the best he can in a bad situation. And he will get better.
Watching Dier learn on the job is frustrating, aggravating, and makes you want to pull your hair out at times, but that's what you get sometimes with young players. With Kyle Naughton coming back into fitness and Kyle Walker expected back in training soon, Dier will soon settle back into what is likely a rotation option at RB and CB for Spurs, one with a slightly cooler crucible and a lot less pressure. With luck, he'll take the experience gained at right back this season and learn from it, making him into a more effective footballer than he was before. Who knows, maybe in a couple of years we'll look back and point to this series of games as the stretch that turned Eric Dier into an outstanding Tottenham Hotspur defender.