Cartilage Free Captain is once again reviewing each of Spurs' first team players and evaluating their 2015-16 season. The series continues today with Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Eric Dier.
Cards: 10 yellow cards, zero red cards
Blissful Embraces with Dele Alli: 2,371,567
What went right?
Every preseason provides promise. Supporters are hardwired to be overly optimistic in July, especially when it concerns players who are either young or new. Surely everyone remembers Eric Dier's game-winner against West Ham in his debut at center-back last year, yet his trials at the defensive midfield spot this preseason made it seem, with a hopeful imagination of course, that maybe the young Englishman could function like a new signing. Maybe he could fill a hole, or at least provide depth, to a position that beleaguered Tottenham Hotspur throughout their 2014-15 campaign.
From the Audi Cup, to his performances in the Premier League in August and early September of this season, it was evident that Pochettino might have unlocked a small measure of magic by beta-testing Eric Dier in midfield. His initial performances were unquestionably solid. His suitability to the spot, and whether or not he could maintain his form, was still an open book.
Yet by October, it was evident that Eric Dier was no fluke. In retrospect, it seems quite obvious as to why Dier would succeed in a Pochettino system. First and foremost, the young man is willing to die(r) on the pitch. He gives the team a whole lot of heart and stamina down its spine. In fact, the swaths of ground that Dier can cover is sneakily elite. He is strong in the air and a threat to goal on set pieces. Further, his tackling was superb. There was a real worry that while he would bring a much needed steel to the midfield, his challenges would be impetuous and immature.
None of the above qualities though were wholly unexpected. Where Dier surprised and surpassed expectations was his seamless transition to the midfield in terms of positioning and ball-playing. Obviously a center-back must be disciplined in their spacing and have tactical acumen, yet the amount of ground that a midfielder must cover is a different kind of beast. Dier was sound in sitting back and shielding the back four but, more impressively, he linked with our attacking players in the press so well. The work-rate of Erik Lamela is folly without the positioning of Eric Dier. Yes, he won numerous tackles due to the the pressing of the front four, but his ability to read the game, fill a gap, and win a tackle was special in its own right. His touch in tight spaces and ability to maintain possession was exemplary too. He wasn't threading forty yard through balls to a streaking Harry Kane, but he did well in recycling possession and not giving the ball away. He kept it bare bones simple, yet for a defender thrown into the center of the park, this was a task that was anything but easy.
What went wrong?
Eric Dier went from a reserve center-back to a potential first eleven pick at the defensive midfield spot for the English National Team in ten months. This is unheard of. And while we have gotten used to his legitimacy, its important to luxuriate on how far he has actually come. That said, there are some minor things that the young Englishman can improve upon.
The first would be the sheer amount of cards that he was handed. While Dier didn't receive any red cards this year, he garnered ten bookings overall. This put him in a four-way tie for second place in the Premier League, only one yellow card behind Jack Colback for the top spot. His challenge on Cesc Fabregas, in our disastrous draw at Stamford Bridge, should have been a straight red and the odds are such that if he continues to rack up cards, he will collect more reds going forward. His tenacity is welcome, but he is at the razors edge in its use.
Secondly, as he develops, it is important that his technical play improves too. He did more than anyone could have possibly hoped for this year, yet if he wants to be an absolutely elite defensive midfielder, his touch must be flawless. He can also add a few more goals too. While he did have three, including that SCREAMER against City, he can be an absolute menace in the air. He scored two goals off of set pieces this year, he has the potential for more.
The key for Eric Dier next season and beyond is to stay grounded and committed to his football. He has been through a whirlwind of a year, but its important that he remembers what got him here — head down hard work. The Dele-Dier bromance is the best, yet it also garners media attention of which he has probably never faced.
A lot went right for Eric Dier in the 2015-16 season and there is no reason why he can't build on this success going forward. With the likelihood of another defensive midfielder being brought into the team this summer, Dier should be challenged more from within the squad and spelled more throughout the season. Both of these factors can help him maintain the high bar that he set for himself this year.
Eric Dier is already a fan favorite. He seems to have the proper makeup to wear the captain's armband for the club in the future. He has everything that is needed to crush souls in Tottenham's midfield for years to come. He could even eventually be a club legend.
Rating: 4.5 Chirpys