It seems fitting that in a week which has seen Tottenham Hotspur linked with a whole manner of creative imports to fix their stuttering attacking unit, the side suddenly seemed to spark into life during the 3-1 win over West Ham United yesterday.
But while it was refreshing to see Andre Villas-Boas’ side manage a relatively consistent and effective attacking output up front over the course of 90 minutes, it still doesn’t right all of the wrongs that supporters have endured for much of the season so far.
And it’s in one of the touted acquisitions the Lilywhites are rumoured to be looking to bring in come January, that offers some real food for thought.
The whispers surrounding Ajax’s Christian Eriksen’s potential move into English football have began to exude a little more of a confident tone of late and if reports are to be believed, it’s the men from N17 who are looking to move into pole position to sign the Dane.
Should they do so, the cost of bringing the gifted creative midfielder to White Hart Lane could potentially be a heavy one – indeed, there’s been more than one suggestion that Ajax wouldn’t entertain much below £20milllion for their prized asset. Knocking that down would represent a challenge even for the formidable transfer market skills of Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.
Although should Levy take the deal on when the window reopens, he could well be going a long way to rectify the failings that he saddled upon Andre Villas-Boas back in August. Tottenham are still in dire need of an effective link between midfield and attack. On paper at least, Eriksen has just the skillset that both Spurs and Villas-Boas need to get their Premier League season going through the gears.
For much of this season, Villas-Boas’ side have of course looked somewhat toothless in their attacking efforts, most notably when playing in front of their own fans. Some may find – considering their leading marksman in Jermain Defoe has notched away seven league goals himself this season – that concept a little bit strange. But his goal scoring output doesn’t entirely paint the whole picture.
While they have continued to look neat and tidy in their approach play since their season’s opener at Newcastle United, there has been something very laboured in the way they’ve gone about their attacking business. The 4-2-3-1 of which Villas-Boas has of course sought to implement at White Hart Lane, has been plagued by a depth of creativity centrally.
The chief culprits hardly require a photo-fit on Crimewatch, but both Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson have struggled to adapt to the No10 like role that Villas-Boas has demanded of them. Neither have looked like an organic fit in a position that resembles a vital cog in this new Spurs system. And as we’ve seen so far, when that cog fails to work properly, it’s felt throughout the frontline.
In fairness to Dempsey – who admitted after the West Ham game in which he played superbly, that he wasn’t ignorant to his difficulty to adapt to the role – he is effectively being asked to play a position of which he’s never particularly been deployed in before.
Whether the American can continue to replicate his performance against Sam Allardyce’s men throughout the season remains to be seen. Although while Dempsey admitted that he has struggled when receiving the ball with his back to goal, one man who might not have the same issues, would be the 20-year-old Eriksen.
When you’re blooded from the Ajax academy, as fans have witnessed to some extent with Jan Vertonghen this season, you’re always going to behold quite the esteemed technical skillset. But when Johan Cruyff comes out describing you as: “A player I like with all my heart,” before comparing you to the Laudrup brothers, the chances are you have something a little bit extra.
But before lauding Eriksen’s potential and the player that he might turn out to be, it’s worth focusing on the player he already is. And it’s one that has the ability to offer a desperately needed fluency to Villas-Boas’ attacking unit.
Either playing with his back to goal or collecting the ball from deep, Eriksen would offer Spurs a consistent and reliable outlet of which to focus their play through. Where as play has often broken down for the Lilywhites when the ball has reached the final third this season, Eriksen represents a far more viable link between midfield and attack.
His range of passing is eclectic, his tactical awareness is outstanding and his contribution isn’t half bad either – he racked up an astonishing 19 assists in 33 Eredivisie games last term. Comparisons made by former Spurs and Ajax coach Martin Jol, between Eriksen and former Dutch No10’s Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder, will please supporters – the former has of course been sorely missed at White Hart Lane.
At 20 years of age, it is of course always difficult to judge a player’s development and as gifted as Eriksen remains, his investment doesn’t come without risk.
A tendency to go missing in games can be overlooked given his years, but his goal scoring record suggests there are no guarantees the Dane will develop a predatory side to his game in front of goal. His role in the system he’d be playing at Spurs demands more than just assists, and Eriksen would be expected to chip in with his share of goals should he make the move to North London.
Signing Christian Eriksen wouldn’t just be firing a signal of intent out to other teams in the Premier League; it’d be showing the most prominent sign yet that the clubs are ready to back Andre Villas-Boas – something that within the transfer market, they’ve failed to do.
The team are in dire need of another attacking outlet and while Eriksen offers one of the most expensive options, it could be equally the most exciting, too.
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