The plan is to write a series about those players who are in the doorstep of the very elite. They are may be in one of the best teams or a leading player of their league. But in my opinion they need one more step ahead to progress to a level upwards.
Christian Eriksen (born 14 February 1992) is a Danish professional footballer who plays as an attacking midfielder mainly as creator/playmaker for the English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur and the Denmark national team. He made his debut for the Denmark national team in March 2010, and participated as the youngest player in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
This year he was one of the main contributors of Spurs’s second place in the Premier League table, scoring 8 goals and making 15 assists. Delle Alli and Harry Kane received most of the recognition for their performances, which, of course, were not ungrounded, but in my opinion, his vision, anticipating and playmaking skills were essential to the team in this great accomplishment.
3rd man running-Patience in Possession:
Eriksen has superb technical skills, to execute decisive passes that can open up a defense. Physically he’s light but he compensates for this with his pace, technique and excellent off the ball movements. His ability to dictate the tempo of his team, and capability to make key passes in the final third can be noticed remotely. He often operates in the right side of his team, drifting inside to the halfspaces, these movements are hard to react for the opposition, so he can create confusion in the defensive line,making diagonal passes to Kane or to another teammate.
His greatest performances are direct consequences of his greatest talent, his vision. He can see what others can’t and pass the ball there, to confuse the opponent’s defensive line, and help the striker to score.
His vision starts before he receives the ball, he scan the whole pitch and calculate the best possible choice, in a second, this ability makes him a really tough player to defend against. He has a general understanding of where his teammates are located on the field, aims his passes in perfect rhythm to keep the flow. He has been playing for Spurs since 2013, over time he studied where his teammates are located in different game situations. Knowing where his teammates are located also comes from looking around constantly when he doesn’t even have the ball. As he doing this, he already has a good idea of where his teammates are before he gets the ball.
He is, in my opinion, the heart of his team, he is the main creator of chances, allowing to his more attacking minded teammates to push higher up the pitch, scoring goals, and finishing chances.
If we examine the chart above we can find, that he is participant in the second most passing sequences from the Premier League, more than De Bruyne, Coutinho, or Özil. That means he is much more the core of his team, and really can tailor the playflow.
Breaking the line – Timing of run – Weight of pass
As his main strengths are related with ball-possession, he can only show them when his team is attacking, but fortunately, Spurs is a strong side nowadays in the Premier League, so we can easily perceive his performances.
His anticipation and off the ball skills help him to break packed defenses or to launch direct counter attacks through his positioning between the lines of the opposition. He calculates the weight of pass quickly and chooses the best option available, whether it is a long range pass or a short one.
His positioning including his runs(direction, speed, lilt)can shape the whole structure of his team, related to his movement, to form a balanced formation.
In my opinion his main weakness is his physical appearance and its consequences. He is aware of it, thus he tries to compensate with skill, creativity, and speed of thought. As a slender midfielder he tries to avoid every physical contact, because he would likely to lose. If he can improve in his physical characteristics, he is going to rule the midfield.
His services are well-exploited at his current club, but his horizon are much higher, and he could achieve things later in his career, but he needs to be surrounded by teammates who could get more out of his abilities.
His main duties are not related with defending, and of course we can’t expect it from him, but he can execute the pressing movements required by Pochettino, so he is a valuable team member in this front too. He is 25 years old, and he developed remarkable insight and vision of the game that helps to make him the prime creator of his team.
(illustrations are from opta, videos made myself)