Tottenham were beaten 1-0 by north London neighbours Arsenal on Sunday, with the visitors to the Emirates Stadium failing to break down their fierce rivals. In light of the fact that Spurs have failed to score in open play now in three Premier League fixtures, the absence of Gareth Bale’s direct approach is starting to be felt.
Despite the summer acquisition of a raft of new players and the return from loan of Andros Townsend, the one addition that has the ability to be the club’s most-important is playmaker Christian Eriksen. Certainly a different type of player to Bale, but the Dane has the potential to be just as important to André Villas-Boas’ men as his Welsh predecessor.
Tottenham have persisted with three central midfielders, two widemen and Roberto Soldado in attack by himself. Despite the side undoubtedly looking a lot more solid than in past seasons, there is a visible lack of creativity centrally. The Spanish forward has been isolated and a player to fill the hole between the team’s midfield and attack is needed.
Both Mousa Dembélé and Paulinho have attacking instincts and Villas-Boas will intend that one or both will get forward to fill the afore-mentioned space. This has failed to happen consistently as yet, and as such it may pay dividends for Tottenham to sacrifice one of their central midfielders and bring Eriksen into the line up as a number 10 or second striker to Soldado.
With Étienne Capoue picking up what looks like a long-term ankle injury, Spurs would be best advised to keep the other two in the team and push Eriksen forward as a replacement for the injured man.
The Dane joins the White Hart Lane club with a big reputation and rightly so given his exploits for Ajax and his national side over the last number of seasons. Eriksen’s inclusion in the same capacity as what Bale played last term should go some way to making up for the Wales international’s departure, and will also change the style of play that the team use.
Over the last number of years Tottenham have impressed with swift counter-attacking at speed, with Bale and Aaron Lennon the main protagonists. However, against Arsenal when the ball was won in deep areas, urgency was not displayed, with more of a calculated and patient build-up preferred.
The personnel on show for Spurs may well have been a reason for the lack of direct counter attacks, but with the likes of Paulinho looking to dominate possession and keep the ball rather than bomb forward at 100 miles an hour, Eriksen’s inclusion seems apt.
The Scandinavian has none of the speed, strength or direct goalscoring threat that his predecessor has become famed for but he is a much better footballer with the ball at his feet. Eriksen’s technique, range of passing, link-up play and eye for a decisive pass will be a key feature of Tottenham’s play and will be a real benefit to the other attacking players at Villas-Boas’ disposal.
The one man that will pray for Eriksen’s inclusion is Soldado. Despite bagging a brace of penalties in the early games of the campaign, the former Valencia marksman has not had the chance to show what he is capable of. For the bulk of his time on the pitch in his time in England he has had to deal with the attention of two centre-backs by himself and not had a Tottenham team-mate near him.
Eriksen’s inclusion will take some of the emphasis off Soldado to hold up the ball, as the pair can work together and link-in others. The Dane’s ability with the football will naturally allow for additional chances for Soldado to make clever runs, with Eriksen having the ability to find him in critical areas.
Eriksen will take up a similar position to Rafael van der Vaart when he was at White Hart Lane, and the Danish playmaker has the ability to be an even more effective attacking component than the Dutch star.
It was always going to be a tricky task for Tottenham to blood so many new players and it may well be that it won’t be until the second half of the season that we see Spurs at their best. However, with the calibre of players such as Eriksen in their ranks, Tottenham’s style of play will evolve and they can potentially be a better team with him in the driving seat than they were with the more-direct Bale.