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Christian Eriksen made the leap in 2016-17.

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The Danish midfielder is maturing into a borderline world-class playmaking midfielder.

West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Cartilage Free Captain is again reviewing the Tottenham Hotspur first team players after the conclusion of the 2016-17 season. Up next: attacking midfielder Christian Eriksen.

Christian Eriksen

Appearances: 48 (36 EPL, 3 FA, 1 LC, 6 UCL, 2 EL)

Goals: 19

Assists: 17

Bookings (EPL): 1 yellow

What Went Right

Heh, how about “basically everything”? There were some dumb “#actually Eriksen is bad” takes early in the season based on his slow start to the campaign. But even then, the actual rhetoric far exceeded what was reasonable, given Eriksen’s record at Spurs. And once the Dane got going later into the fall, there was no stopping him.

His hottest stretch came between November 26 and March 19, which coincided with our best run of form in the season. During that run, he played 21 fixtures for Spurs, scored eight goals provided 13 assists. So he averaged one direct contribution to a goal per game for a four-month stretch.

It’s not just the direct contributions to goals that make him elite though. Eriksen also has three other attributes that set him apart:

  • He can play any kind of pass.
  • He runs for days.
  • He is extremely intelligent.

Off the top of my head, I can remember sequences where Christian opened up a defense with a curling vertical ball played down the wing into the channel, with diagonal balls that take advantage of a compact opponent, and with simple through balls that split the defense and set up Harry Kane or Son Heung-Min for a great goal-scoring chance. But Eriksen isn’t just good at those sorts of eye-catching passes; he’s also a generally tidy passer who is excellent in possession and doesn’t give the ball away cheaply.

On top of his remarkable technical ability, Eriksen is also one of the most industrious players in England’s top flight. According to one report, Eriksen ran 418.88 km this season, second only to Gylfi Sigurdsson in overall distance run this season. But Eriksen did not play as many league fixtures as Sigurdsson. So if you take average distance per game, he actually leads the Premier League with an average of 11.97km run per match, putting him just ahead of Jordan Henderson (11.92/match), Marcos Alonso (11.64/match), and N’Golo Freaking Kante (11.62/match).

Finally, don’t forget this study on how Poche’s Tottenham win back possession. Eriksen has a knack for winning the ball back quickly which is an essential ingredient to the Tottenham press.

For all these reasons, I would argue that Eriksen is the team’s best and most important player. We’re spoiled for choices on that front, but Eriksen simply does so many things so well that it’s hard to imagine life without him.

What Went Wrong

Umm. Nothing comes to mind? The slow start to the season wasn’t great, but was also massively over-played.

What Now

When I look at this current Spurs squad, there are a few players who I think are going to stick around for the long-term: I don’t expect us to sell Harry Kane, Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, or Mousa Dembele until they are past their primes. Other players I think could stick around long-term but I’m not as confident: Danny Rose, Eric Dier, and Son Heung-Min fit here.

Then there are two who I expect to see at Bayern, Real Madrid, or Barcelona within the next two or three seasons: Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen. They are both still very young, are both obviously on the path to being good enough to start for one of those three clubs, and they don’t have any sort of personal tie to the club as Kane does. So enjoy him while you can, Spurs fans. Because I expect we’ll see Christian on the move in the not-too-distant future.

Rating: 5 Chirpies