Christian Eriksen is one of the most important players for Tottenham. When he is playing well, the team often dominate matches and pick up plenty of wins. It is too soon to judge a player after only four Premier League matches. However, the Danish international has been less effective in the centre of the park for Spurs. During the opening period, he has yet to score and contributed only a single assist.
One major reason for Eriksen being less influential has been the decision by Mauricio Pochettino to field Lucas Moura, Dele Alli and Harry Kane in more advanced positions. This has meant that his main creative midfielder has been pushed back into a deeper role, thus he has been less involved in the final third.
The excellent form of Lucas Moura has been a huge positive for Tottenham. The Brazilian has contributed three goals, including a brace at Old Trafford to help the team overcome Manchester United. It is difficult to pick his emergence as a negative, but it has certainly played a part in Eriksen having to play in a deeper role.
During the opening four matches, Eriksen has made only eight key passes, which is an average of 2 per game. It is a small sample size, but compared to last season’s 2.6 per game, it is a noticeable drop-off. Meanwhile, he has attempted an average of 3.3 shots per game at the beginning of this season.
Upon watching Eriksen this season, he has been taking a lot of shots from range and this might be a counter-product of using him in a deeper position. He has less space and time to make the incisive through balls that we have become accustomed to, which leaves him with fewer options when on the ball. The Danish international could play a safe pass or shoot and as he is attempting to have an impact, he often takes the latter.
There appear to be problems at Tottenham this season, as Pochettino is yet to decide how to keep all of his stars happy. Toby Alderweireld needs to be reintegrated if they are to agree to a new contract with him, while Davinson Sanchez continues to develop. That means a three-man defence is required to fit both men in alongside Jan Vertonghen.
The manager then faces the problem of fitting in all of his attacking pieces. Lucas Moura can’t be dropped after his start, but Dele Alli has also shown flashes of getting back to his best. Harry Kane is the leading man for Tottenham and there is the small issue of giving game-time to Son Heung-min once he returns from international duty.
There are a lot of pieces to fit together at Tottenham, but the main focus has to be finding the system that gets the best football from the team. Against Watford, Spurs were poor in the final third and didn’t create a lot. Meanwhile, they were leaky at the back, especially from set pieces. It could be that another defensive-minded midfielder is needed in the 3-4-2-1 formation and that would mean dropping Eriksen, Lucas or Alli.
It would be ludicrous to drop Eriksen and harsh to drop either of the other two. Pochettino is facing the most difficult season of his career in terms of selecting players and this comes after the club didn’t make a single signing in January.
Eriksen may need to adapt to a deeper role and learn to remain influential, despite being further away from the final third. However, the opening four matches have introduced a problem to Pochettino, as Tottenham are better when the midfielder is on the top of his game. They need to find a way to get him back to his best.