At a time when football has clearly taken a backseat, one of the more interesting transfer rumours still doing rounds involves Tottenham Hotspur’s Eric Dier, Manchester United and a figure dangerously close to £50-million.
Before analyzing whether any of that makes sense, it is important to understand what Eric Dier means to Tottenham Hotspur. He, in many ways, epitomizes what Pochettino’s vision for Spurs is centered around. Eric Dier is 23, entering his prime years, English international with a considerable amount of experience abroad (in Portugal), intelligent and versatile. In fact, he could even pass as an Old Etonian scholar, for what it is worth.
Versatility has been key to Spurs’ success in the Premier League, particularly in the last couple of years – and it is not hard to imagine why, when Mauricio Pochettino himself has showcased his flair for flexibility and game management on more than one occasion, perhaps more than any other manager since his arrival in North London. Multi-functionality is a common theme at Tottenham and Dier – with his ability to play across all positions at the back and defensive midfield, is hence, as valued as any among the blossoming Lily Whites.
One of the many things that Jose Mourinho mentioned which, in his opinion, distinguished his footballing ideologies from those of predecessor Louis van Gaal – was indeed the Portuguese’s preference for specialists over players who could play in a variety of roles – Mourinho has historically favoured masters of one trade over jacks of all.
But as times changed, Mourinho certainly did at Old Trafford and he had to – in a side littered with players who could play in multiple roles – Martial, Rashford, Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Mata, Valencia, Young, Lingard, Blind, Bailly among others have all been asked to fill in at different positions other than their own – along the course of a 64-game season and they all did, albeit with varying degrees of success. From that point of view, adding another Dier-shaped string to his now multi-coloured bow, can only be deemed shrewd.
Why would Eric Dier Fit in at United?
Thanks to his aforementioned versatility, Dier could be a key feature in Mourinho’s midfield – plugging the hole which will invariably be needed to be filled after 36-year old Michael Carrick’s departure. He may not be as good as Carrick has been in his prime, in terms of controlling the tempo and the ability to unlock defences with a single pass – but it is essential to remember that the ex-Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Michael Carrick himself, was not born with the peripheral vision that he has come to be associated with at Old Trafford and there is some time to go before Dier reaches his own peak.
Eric Dier has proved to be one of the best at Spurs in recycling possession, the 23-year old has a high passing accuracy 87% – with an average of 38 forward passes per game – which is a high number. Having played in an intensity-oriented system at Tottenham for two full seasons, adapting to United’s pace in midfield or even improving on it, should be an easier task for the defensive midfielder/defender.
The fact that he is more of an athletic footballer, who would not mind a physical tussle at any area in the pitch, than both Michael Carrick and Daley Blind – who incidentally is United’s answer to the England international at this point in time, will only bode well for Jose Mourinho’s system – which could be further strengthened by an equal measure of technique and physicality.
Whatever your opinion is of him, it defies logic to deny Dier’s contribution to a side that has finished in the top three for two seasons in a row now. In a fluid 3-4-3 system which shape-shifts at will to a compact 4-3-3 and a more attacking 4-2-3-1, the England International has remained one of the cornerstones in two different positions and tipped to be the future leader by peers and more importantly – fans who watch him week in week out. In a not too dissimilar system under Mourinho, the expensive gamble that is Eric Dier may after all turn out to be an informed one – considering the potential long term gains.