This is the ninth installment in a series of Tottenham Hotspur player profiles that I am creating. The articles are aimed at fans who are either new to Spurs or new to the game. You can find my other work in the fanposts section of the Cartilage Free Captain blog. Read, comment, compliment, ridicule, enjoy.
Player: Christian Eriksen
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Strengths: Greatness would always find Denmark’s Christian Eriksen. In South Africa, in 2010, Eriksen was the youngest player on any World Cup roster. By the 2012 European Championships, at just twenty years old, Eriksen was billed as the lynchpin of Denmark’s attack. Comparisons were made to Danish great Michael Laudrup (who was recently named the best Nordic footballer ever - yes that is a thing) and accomplished Dutch attacking midfielder Wesley Sneijder. These accomplishments, along with a series of trophies and individual accolades from his time at Ajax, and one can glimpse the large shadow of expectation attached to the Dane. Eriksen has been renowned as a promising footballer from a young age because he has all of the qualities that make up a world-class playmaker. Possessing vision, technique, flair, quickness and pace, Eriksen is a breeding ground for goals. First, he can create goals for others. The mark of a true No.10 (playmaker) is the ability to slip short passes through crowded areas into tight spaces. Like the unexpected dash of bacon in a chocolate dessert, there is some genius to his play. Whether it is scooping the ball ten feet in the air for it to travel three, back heeling it to a teammate making a diagonal run, or playing the obvious through ball with such precision that it seems counterintuitive, Eriksen delivers. Yet flair is just one aspect to his game. Eriksen is powerful and accurate in his ball-striking ability. Defenders must hurriedly engage him if he is within any proximity of their net. They must consult the NSA, as he is impossible to track. His perfectly timed runs seem to meet every rebound and driven pass across the face of goal. Finally, he is utter magic on set pieces. His dead ball strikes zip, curve, dip, knuckle, and swerve. They get up and down over walls of any size, with ease, and have the vigor behind them to breach the back of the net consistently. In this regard, Eriksen is a true match winner.
Weaknesses: When in form, Christian Eriksen is a handful and could grace the colors of nearly every club in the world. The problem with Eriksen is that he fades in and out of a season like the memories of a night of excessive drink. It is these patches without impact, ones where he fails to score a goal or tally an assist for a month at a time, that separate him from the upper echelon players of the game. This is the biggest complaint against him. One might argue that he doesn’t have Olympic speed or that he isn’t a true threat in the air due to his modest height. Some might say that he isn’t direct in his dribbling and does not take on defenders as much as he should. But while these are certainly weaknesses in his game, in comparison to his skill set, they are trivial criticisms at best. The true knock against him is his mentality. The twenty-three year old is a puppet master on the pitch and has the talent to dominate nearly any match that he plays. The question of why his form can be so capricious is a difficult one. Yet if forced a guess, one would place their chips in the corner of psychology over his footballing faculties. The great players are cutthroat in their approach, the thought of losing or being second best are alien concepts. Like the vicious Norseman of his ancestry, Eriksen’s mentality must extend no mercy.
History at Spurs: Transferring to Tottenham Hotspur F.C. on the final day of the 2013 summer transfer window, Christian Eriksen left Ajax A.F.C. for eleven and a half million pounds. One could travel through countless wormholes to points in the universe yet to be conceived, and that distance would still not properly explain how much better of a signing Christian Eriksen was than the other six members of Spurs’ "Magnificent Seven". In his first year at White Hart Lane, Eriksen was voted Player of the Year by supporters and scored ten goals in all competitions. The 2014-15 season saw him start in thirty-seven of thirty-eight Premier League matches and score twelve goals in all competitions. He had a litany of late winners last year, often from free kick situations, and was the hero of the Capital One Cup semifinals scoring twice to send Spurs to Wembley. While the above statistics don’t necessarily highlight it, Eriksen has had massive start to his Tottenham career.
Role on Team: Christian Eriksen is the creative force for Tottenham Hotspur. In Pochettino’s chosen 4-2-3-1 formation, he can be deployed in either the left or central role of the attacking three in the frontline. Regardless of which position he is assigned, Eriksen will find the center of the pitch. The forward three midfielders interchange constantly and more often then not, even as a left winger, Eriksen will drift central. In general, he has a free reign on the pitch and will find the ball wherever it may be. If Eriksen is healthy, he is among the first names selected on the team sheet every week. It would take a monumental drop in form or an emergence of Harry Kane proportions, from multiple players, to dislodge him from the first eleven.
Prediction: Entering his third year with the club, Christian Eriksen should be the kerosene that stokes Tottenham’s fire. Although just twenty-three years old, Eriksen is one of the more seasoned players on Spurs’ roster and is also one it’s most senior. He has always been destined for excellence, but is reaching a point in his career where hype must meet expectation. The autumn and early winter of last year’s campaign saw him flirt with this notion, but his performances faded last spring. One rationale of why Eriksen’s play has the potential to improve is that the makeup of Spurs attack is transitioning. Lamela, Dembélé, and Chadli, his most frequent partners in the frontline, are skillful players yet pedestrian in their pace. Having a speedy winger who goes at defenders and can be dangerous in front of goal (sorry 2013-2015 Andros Townsend), is a near prerequisite to a potent attack. Eriksen has lacked this outlet in a Spurs shirt. The signing of Clinton N’Jie, and the rumored transfer of Son Heung-Min, should bring a much needed boost to Spurs attack and Tottenham’s #10 might be the biggest beneficiary. All the talent one needs, this could be the year where Christian Eriksen puts it all together and establishes himself as a truly world-class footballer.