Eriksen The Future For Spurs

“Stirring comeback” – most of today’s media. “Two nil and you f**ked it up” – The Park Lane, yesterday, approx. 3.10pm.

Spurs did well to drag themselves back into a game they appear not so much to have lost but to have chucked out the window well before half time, only to take it at the last with a lovely long-range winner from Sigurdsson in injury time. In truth, much of the performance was a mish-mash of the good, the bad, and the hideous that has typified much of our season.

There was one difference though – the good gives hope for a future that otherwise looks uncertain and dark. Christian Eriksen’s outstanding performance lifted the side and ultimately proved to be the difference between the two sides. Scored two, made the third but his major contribution was his link-up play, especially with Soldado, that provided almost all of our creative moments and as such frankly stood out from an otherwise ordinary display.

Talking of the future, there’s hope for poor Bobby Soldado. His most consistent offering yet, his movement in a lone striker role due to Adebayor’s injury was the fulcrum around which our best attacks and movement hung. Twice I’ve typed his name so far, both times the pre-spellcheck result was ‘Booby’. I know my typing is primeval but Freudian slip or what? He did well today when the ball was kept on the ground, setting up the second goal and celebrating the winner as enthusiastically as any fan in the stands. Unfortunately he didn’t get the ball put in front of him in the box, otherwise surely a goal would come. He flicked a perfect ball to Chadli early in the game but the Belgian could not reciprocate, placing the cross behind him when time and space compelled him to do better.

Sherwood has handled him poorly since he scored the winner verses Cardiff but the Spaniard is admirably resilient and was well supported by the fans. Trouble is, for periods we were bogged down in the malaise that has undermined much of our recent football, no one available and tight pressing/marking by our opponents so resorting to the long high ball.

It’s an indictment of our development as a team that after almost a full season we know so little about the true abilities of most of our summer signings. Injuries have played a part in that – they’ve all had extended periods on the sidelines bar Soldado – but it’s an indication of the disruption that has undermined our efforts that we have seen only Paulinho and Soldado have extended runs in the side.

At last we have a sense of what Eriksen can really achieve. He’s taken time to settle into the pace of the league despite being endorsed by his previous manager as being able to adapt to anything. Now we know. He has been touted as the number 10 but to me, play him in the heart of the midfield where he can be more involved and have a greater share of the ball. He’s the guy who holds it all together. Players can work off him and he makes them better because he can deliver the type of pass they want – slide it through, curl in a cross and his speciality yesterday, the neat little touch, subtle, instant, perfectly weighted.

His combination play with Soldado appeared instinctive but was carefully thought out. Bearing in mind he was nominally left midfield, he popped up, right place right time, far too often for it to be coincidence. He knows what Bobby S. needs and is the only one who comes remotely close to giving it to him. One sublime move in the first half showed speed of foot and thought that I thought had deserted us several long months ago. Shame it could not quite be converted into a goal.

Look – I may be a simple man but if Eriksen is dynamic in the centre, play him there. Chadli started there again in a forward position, despite his game-changing performance on Thursday when he moved out left. So why not start him left, coming inside on his right foot as he tends to do. Eriksen coming in gives us an extra man and it’s hard to mark him, I get that. I can see what Sherwood is trying. Redknapp did he same with Modric, but look at Luka now, flourishing in a central role for Real Madrid. Eriksen is the only man at Tottenham around whom a team can be built. Play him in the centre now, for the sake of this season and those to come. He is our future.

The first half began with optimism then swiftly degenerated into a familiar story of disorganisation and disenchantment.  Southampton are keen on pushing men into the spaces between our back four, as they did in the match at St Mary’s. We responded by keeping those gaps as wide as humanly possible, doing nothing to prevent he flow of passes from midfield or to track willing runners. Saints have no shortage of men more than happy to take advantage of an invitation and it was open house for much of the opening period.

Five goals in a free scoring Premier League weekend, four of which came from crass defensive errors. Spurs first with the cock-ups. Naughton totally misjudged an innocuous long ball from the Southampton keeper – really, nowhere near it – and Rodriguez took the chance extremely well as crowd and team united in stunned bewilderment. Then Naughton did it again. Last man, he knocked the ball sideways instead of clearing, Lallana the grateful beneficiary this time.

Saints looked like a team, we a collection of individuals introduced to each other for the first time in the dressing room before kick-off. Chadli looked eager but lost, Lennon did not manage a run with the ball for 40-odd minutes. He and Dembele were invisible. Cue some hoofing upfield. At the other end we were vulnerable to any bobbly ball through the middle.

This had all the hallmarks of disaster, a meek capitulation would surely follow. But now it was Southampton’s turn to make a hash of it. A cross to the far post just eluded Soldado but the full-back (Clyne?) mis-cued his clearance. Eriksen, lurking hopefully at the far post, suddenly found the ball right in his stride and he slotted home. That cross came from Naughton: it says a lot about his determination that he was there. Despite making two horrific mistakes he didn’t hide.

The second half turned on another error, this time from lumbering centre half Loveren. He could have easily cleared an aimless ball into the corner but instead allowed Soldado to nip in and pinch it. A perfect cross found Eriksen dashing in on the far post to equalise. Spurs were the better side from then on, keeping Saints penned in without making too many chances. By now Eriksen had the freedom to be permanently stationed in the centre.

Sherwood timed his substitutions well. Last week they took the sting from our revival, this week Townsend and Siggy’s energy kept the pressure up. The game was meandering to a draw when Saints failed to clear. Siggy ran on to Eriksen’s weighted touch to slam it low and hard into the bottom left hand corner for a win that on the half-hour seemed highly improbable.

One other player to mention: in the second half Kaboul took his role as captain seriously, to the point where he was driving the team on from the back in a display of infectious determination.

27 comments

  1. Mike CP

    good article, agree with your thoughts on eriksen. He could be our next Modric, which is what i think we are severely lacking. We need to get Lamela fit and playing in the no. 10 role until the rest of the season, we need to give him a prolonged run in the team to see if he can be a player for us. Chadli looking as though he could become an important player for us in the future, sadly I think Lennon’s injuries look to be catching up on and he’s losing that burst of pace that made him so dangerous.

    • Alan

      Thanks. Chad still has a way to go. Not used to the PL yet. Azza still has the pace, hard for a winger these days. Hasn’t the all round game to prosper elsewhere despite his efforts and positional play.

      Regards, Alan

  2. peter

    why didn`t eriksen start against norwich or benfica away?

    yes he is really the only creative m/field palyer at our club who can pass or strike a ball properly (all the rest run around a lot do lots of short backward passes but can`t thread a ball through to our forwards!)..why did we sell huddlestone again?

    • Harvey The Hudd

      Good question Peter. I am still pissed off that Sherwood benched him for the Benfica game and then only gave him 15 minutes. Even then he nearly turned it around. We might well be in the quarter finals if Eriksen had played.

  3. Russell Child

    There is a good team in there somewhere. Apparently van Gaal said as much to Levy when they met after AVB was sacked. None or only a small number of signings required. There is enough talent there but the players have to be given a run in the team – and played in their best positions.

    This is not rocket science.

    Although we do need at least one and possibly two new full-backs. Shame Luke Shaw supports C……

    Agree about Soldado’s goal celebration. It is why the crowd are behind him. He isn’t letting us down. We are letting him down. Badly.

    I was sitting close enough to see Jan’s celebration too. Genuine joy, which was good to see after the permafrost of the last few weeks. In fact the joy – and relief – of the whole team when Gylfie’s goal went in spoke volumes. (And we should play Gylfie a lot more than we do.)

    This is a talented group of players whose confidence is shot due to repeated hammerings, behind the scenes turbulence and inconsistent coaching & management. They – and we – deserve better.

    • Alan

      Good to know about Verts, I have not gone with all of the criticism of him but can see for myself that he has been elsewhere a lot of the time. And you are quite right about there being a good team there somewhere. That is why I have been so angry about the waste of yet another set of players. They may or may not be perfect but we will never know at this rate.

      Regards, Al

  4. iknowalangilzean

    I was most pleased for Sigurdsson. He’s a fave of mine, if not necessarily of the best players we have. He missed a couple of good chances on Thursday late on and I was pleased he had another decent game in centre midfield on coming on and scored a cracking winner.

    Anyone looking forward to the high line against a fast and rampant Liverpool forward line? Mind, while their forward line, rightly, gets much praise, LFC are excellent at pressing the opposition like mad from the 1st to 90th minute. We need to be a lot cleverer on Sunday or it could get embarrassing. Cue 4-5 to us!

  5. iknowalangilzean

    I wanted to say that under AVB this season and Tim we simply do not press anywhere well enough, which makes our playing the high line all the more unfathomable. I guess we did this better second half, though Southampton were very weak second half. A very good 30 min job interview for Pocchettino, though someone should have told him and his players it was to last 90 mins + time added on.

    Always a fine read Alan.

    • Alan

      Cheers. The pressing comes from the lack of teamwork and absence apparently of coaching. We move as individuals not as a unit.

      Regards, Alan

  6. Chris B Waters

    Agree with you, Alan, and with many of the comments above. Re Eriksen, it makes you reflect just how well we did last season to amass 72 points without a playmaker of any consistency ..cue Bale of the Rovers. I still think another creative player to support Erikesen (not necessarily play always alongside him) is a must, however, and maybe, just maybe, Lamela can step up and justify that money. One good left back too, along with a pacy left winger addition (because I no longer have faith in Townsend and Lennon balancing the flanks as Bale and Lennon once did ..so let T & L just fight it our for the r/h spot).
    We certainly have let a lot of these very good players down, but I feel optimistic that we can (with proper guidance) finally discover our best team, and the players’ optimum positions, out of an otherwise impressive squad, and get back to the Spurs way of playing (with our new found ‘strength’ adding to our traditional ‘guile’ and ‘pace’ ..but never again at the cost of it).
    One swallow does not make a summer, and I feel that Sig needs to find another club. I like him, as I liked Kranks, but he’s neither a winger, striker, DM or central creative midfielder. He fills in and pops up from time to time with something interesting or effective, but he’s no Martin Peters (ghosting positions and bewildering defenses) and he rarely influences games.
    And Hudd went because again it was right for him, and us, after all his long term injuries. You had to like the man and his Hoddle-like qualities but, despite his class (which seemed to belong to another era), his slowness and inconsistency would not have made him an ideal playmaker for our team today (while Sandro is a far more effective DM than Hudd was).

    • Alan

      I wish Hudd well, really do, but he is the solution to the problems of other teams, not ours. Eriksen can organise the team only if the team is organised and that’s the responsibility of the coaches. Siggy to stay, good squad player, nothing more.

      Cheers, Alan

  7. Billy Fiore

    The team spirit was evident after the winner. Paulinho’s .. minimalist.. celebration of Siggy’s goal shows where he is right now. He has certainly not been convinced by Sherwood, if not the club as a whole. Brought to England to showcase/emphasis his potential for the World Cup, but doesn’t want to dig in and bleed in the mud when the going gets tough, as it inevitably does in the Premier League.

    As has been said… feels like a team is in there, somewhere, just waiting to light up this league.

    • Alan

      Paulinho been a major disappointment. Pains me to say it. Hard to believe he could win the WC. The English league and weather done some damage but not more than AVB who played him out of position.

  8. koko61

    Good read Alan.
    Was not at the game and managed to catch the 2nd half on Sky.
    This high line is not for us, yet Sherwood plays it and has been the cause of most of goals conceded.
    2nd half he plays the team 5 yards deeper and this made all the difference in stopping them from over counter attacking us… So why do we keep on with this stupidity? Maybe it’s somebody else telling him to play that system.. And for sure if we play with that setup against L’pool, we will be terrorised like the last time.
    Good to see Soldado linking up well with MOTM Eriksen . The man is clearly an intelligent footballer and with more game time he will have his confidence back in front of goal.

    • Alan

      In truth the high line wasn’t the biggest problem yesterday. Crass ineptitude more like. Soldado and Eriksen look good together. Soldado really put a shift in and not deterred by mistakes, came back for more.
      Regards, Alan

  9. Peter Domican

    Echo the thoughts on Eriksen and Soldado. Dembele may be injured or not but even when fit he flatters to deceive. Kaboul had a great game, Verthongen competent but little else. Credit to Naughton and Rose for sticking with it.

    • Alan

      Dembele always played out of position, can do more for us. Well said re Naughton ans Rose finally got his act together with a series of second half tackles. Kaboul determined to lift the side. Put a lot into that.

      Regards Alan

      • ashleycollie

        Alan, mate, excellent post…but you suggest that Paulinho has been played out of position, also Dembele out of position…perhaps also Eriksen. Shouldn’t we expect highly paid modern day players be flexible? On the better teams, the players interchange. And if Dembele & Pauli have been played out of position, what would you suggest as an operating midfield (with everyone healthy and onboard)? Let’s start with Eriksen, and who would you surround him with? Cheers mate! ;)

        • Alan

          Played out of their best position would be more accurate. Just because Dembele can play as DM doesn’t mean he should play there. Paulinho’s best starting position is deeper – for Brazil in the summer he played succesfully as one of two DMs but had license to get forward. He can be a box to box man too but AVB had him starting too far forward, often as the midfielder who was furthest forward. The game passed him by. So in answer to your question, they can and do adapt but that does not mean we get the best from them.

          Deciding on our best team is difficult because we don’t know how good Lamela is, but assuming everyone is fit, on current form and leaving him out of the equation, I would play Sandro as DM with Eriksen, Dembele, Bentaleb and Siggy. No wingers there but enough cover to allow Rose and Walker to get forward. Wish I could play both Soldado and Adebayor but fact is, we are not strong enough so it has to be Manu. Paulinho has been awful since Christmas, so I would leave him out BUT seeing as we are in fantasy land, my shrewd man-management plus coaching skills would not have allowed him to become so down so he would be in instead of Bentaleb. Lennon and Townsend as impact subs. I would not have let Holtby go on loan, if he were here, he gets a spot ahead of Siggy or Bentaleb.

          So there you are. Regards, Al

  10. swedishlovespurs

    Hello Alan.
    The players deserved that winner after their recent efforts and I agree with everybody about Erikson and Soldado.
    Their interplay was enough to give us all a feeling of optimism for next season.
    I am however slightly confused as to why TS felt the need to remind everybody about Bale’s injury time heroics of last season during his post match comments.
    These could have been scripted by an opposing manager, designed only to extinguish any confidence gained by a good performance.
    “They’re good, but they’ll never be THAT good!”
    He credits himself as being a man who shoots from the hip. Maybe he should remove the pistol from the holster because this was a case of shooting yourself in the foot.

    • Alan

      I deliberately left TS out of this piece because I have been banging on about him a lot recently and not in a good way. I tend not to spend too much time analysing what happens in press conferences because what happens on the field is all that is important. Having said that, Sherwood is in danger of becoming one of these managers who has a go at the players if things go badly but takes the credit if they go well. It is as if he is having an imaginary debate where we can hear only his side of the story. It’s to prove himself – in his head he is showing everyone that we have to manage without Bale or that he is better than AVB but that’s not what we the fans are really thinking. It is about the here and now, how well he is managing the club.

      It’s not about him, it’s about the team.

      Regards, Alan

  11. aaron

    Why has no on mentioned the fact that bentaleb should not be starting these games he is not great at defense and doesnt bring much to the attack he can pass and will get better with age but he shouldnt be a first choice.

    • Alan

      Bentaleb is a fine prospect. I would not have played him as often as Sherwood has and the game passes him by at times, but with some injuries I would seriously consider him as a starter. You’re right, he will get better as he gets older. Cheers, Alan

  12. Ronwol196061

    Eriksen is a good player.He is talented but I havent seen him hit too many through balls and Soldado hasnt been helped by him. His crosses are very good (we dont have anyone on the end of them) his movement is very good but I dont find he ‘runs’ an attack.
    As far as Chadli goes I can actually see him as the man up top.He has a powerful shot and has a physical presence.
    I cans see him up top with Soldado playing off him and Ade even coming from wide into the box.Ade starts a lot of plays and finishes them and its actually better creating and then getting into the box

    • Alan

      Eriksen has taken a long time to settle and the best is yet to come. He relies on having someone to pass to – silly thing to say I know but the number of times he looks up and can’t find anyone making a run. He looks to slide balls into the channels but a lot of the time there is either no one making those runs aor he’s too deep to make the pass effective.

      Cheers, Alan

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