The Tottenham machine is purring – six wins on the bounce, Harry Kane on a roll, the second-meanest defence in the league and finally some consistency from their most creative attacking outlet, Christian Eriksen.
The Danish star has hit form over the past month and a half, scoring turning in displays of attacking vigour time and time and again – a run which has coincided with Spurs’ recent surge up the table.
You can see why Mourinho said Spurs are the best team in the league.
— Anthony Baker (@AnthonyBaker27) January 14, 2017
It’s always hard to define a player’s resurgence to one factor alone; so instead I defined it down to two. Let’s break it down.
The 2-1 loss against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on the 26th November was a close-fought affair, but featured a stunning goal from Eriksen; 22 yards out, left foot, top corner.
What a hit son, what a hit!
Until that point, the young playmaker had appeared bereft of confidence – he hadn’t scored in 19 (nineteen!) Premier League games, and rumours were circling of a potential move away from North London in January with Juventus allegedly interested (again).
However, that strike gave the 24-year-old a huge boost in belief in his own ability. Eriksen is renowned for his long-range ability – free-kick Specialist trait on Fifa, just saying – but he hadn’t cracked one in from distance all season until that moment.
6 – Since his PL debut, Christian Eriksen has scored 6 direct free-kick goals, 2 more than anyone else. Specialist. pic.twitter.com/IBAomBYSYz
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) 6 September 2016
Since then, the Dane has been more willing to shoot and take risks, which has benefitted Spurs enormously. In fact, since 26th November onwards, Eriksen has bagged himself five goals and six assists. But there’s more to Eriksen’s rejuvenation than just one worldie against Chelski…
Mauricio Pochettino has only recently started tinkering with his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, switching it up to a 3-4-2-1 for certain games.
The return game against Chelsea at the Lane on January 4th was a clear example of the 3-at-the-back formation working in favour of Eriksen; two sublime assists for Dele Alli and a complete domination of the tempo against a team who had won 13 games in a row is evidence enough.
The subsequent game against West Brom, where once again the 3-4-2-1 was deployed, proved that this really was the way to get the best out of the Dane. Another assist, this time for Harry Kane, along with a mercurial display which would have surely bagged him a Man of the Match award had Kane not grabbed a hat-trick.
So why does this formation suit Eriksen?
Well, as part of the “two” behind Harry Kane, Eriksen has an almost complete freedom to focus on attack, with minimal defensive duties. Out of possession, Spurs fall into a back five, with Dembele and Wanyama adding extra cover – Dele Alli, Eriksen and Kane just simply have to wait until the ball is back with Spurs and then they can set off again.
Compare that to the 4-2-3-1, when Eriksen, Alli and Lamela/Sissoko would be rotating positions, meaning that when Eriksen found himself out wide, it meant tracking back – not exactly his forte.
The change relives the Dane of such a duty, so the No. 23 can strictly focus on supplying his teammates, and threatening the opposition.
So, there you have it – amazing what a bit of confidence and being played in your perfect position can do for a player’s performances, eh?
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