When the end of term report comes out on Tottenham’s seven summer signings it will make for mixed reading but one player whose quality has been in evidence for much of the campaign is Christian Eriksen. Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado, Nacer Chadli, Paulinho, Vlad Chiriches and Etienne Capoue have all struggled to make an impact for one reason or another and while the Dane may have experienced a slow start, he has rapidly become a favourite with fans.
So it’s even more surprising that the midfielder was left out of three consecutive Premier League starting XI’s, a decision that was questioned by many, including the Danish National Coach Morten Olsen.
“Was it a surprise to see him left out? Yes, very much,” Olsen told the Evening Standard at the end of February.
“When Christian has played he has shown he is a player who can make the difference. I’ve seen most of his games for Tottenham and I think he has done very well.”
Olsen underlines a crucial factor in Eriksen’s make up – when he plays he is a ‘game changer’, Whether it’s directly from a free kick or a brilliant pass that no-one on the pitch could see – two pieces of his armoury that were played out to full effect against Dnipro.
Years ago, when I had a season ticket in the Upper West Stand, you could watch the game from the best possible vantage point and see every pass that the players were meant to play. Few actually saw it themselves but two notable exceptions – Glenn Hoddle and Chris Waddle – could spot those options together with the ones that no spectator could see. Christian Eriksen is the same – gliding around the pitch in his distinctive Nike Magista boots, looking every inch a superstar in waiting.
It’s hard to believe that the Ajax man has only just turned 22 as he plays with such maturity on the pitch. A prematurely receding hairline also adds to the illusion of advancing years and he’s achieved much in the game in a short space of time including five major trophies in Holland along with a host of individual awards. The pinnacle of those individual achievements are two Danish Footballer of the year titles.
In the weeks that follow there will be much speculation over who will be in charge of the team affairs for the start of next season but whoever takes the hot seat would do well to build their side around this man. A new coach such as a Van Gaal or a Prandelli could have implications for all seven signings but while Capoue, Chadli and Lamela may be especially vulnerable, anyone can see the benefit of having a fit Christian Eriksen in the side.
Fortunately, there have been few comparisons with Gareth Bale, although the Dane has been shunted out to the left wing on more than one occasion. Eriksen feels his best place is in a free, central role behind the attackers and there are more similarities to two more former Spurs – Luka Modric and Rafael Van De Vaart – both of whom haven’t been adequately replaced.
I genuinely believe that Tom Carroll could grow to provide the same slide rule passes that Modric once delivered, as long as he is given a chance in the side. As for Eriksen, the VDV role behind the front men seems an ideal slot and should bring more assists and more goals.
He clearly likes winning trophies but can he achieve success with Spurs? Christian would have gone up in the estimation of many fans when he said that his future didn’t depend on a top four finish this season. While Hugo Lloris and Jan Vertonghen were almost deliberately ambiguous, the Danish international was clear on the subject.
“I don’t know how other guys are thinking, but I’m happy where I am, and hopefully we’ll get to the Champions League anyway,” he said.
In two to three years’ time however, that opinion may have changed and the cynical amongst us would suggest that Daniel Levy is already working out how many times he can multiply Eriksen’s £11m transfer fee when Real Madrid come calling.
Whether you feel that we are wrong to expect or even hope for Champions League football, the truth is that we stand a better chance of achieving that by attracting and holding on to players such as Christian Eriksen who should become the focal point of our next league campaign.