Tottenham’s season, which promised so much, is starting to slip through Mauricio Pochettino’s fingers.
A comprehensive 3-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford yesterday was as disappointing in the performance as the result, with Spurs’ chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League now looking decidedly slim.
After beating Chelsea and Arsenal at the start of the year, things were looking rosy. However, elimination from the Europa League, defeat in the Capital One Cup Final and losing ground in the league has all-but ended the White Hart Lane faithful’s dreams of a successful campaign.
One key reason for Tottenham’s slump in form and failure to achieve their goals has been a dip in performances from star player Christian Eriksen.
The Danish midfielder has shown this season that he has all the hallmarks of a superstar, with fantastic vision, goals from deep, superb free-kicks and divine link-up play.
As such, Eriksen has quickly become Tottenham’s creative force; the man they look to when trying to break down opposition defences or when they are lacking inspiration.
However, despite the Scandinavian netting nine Premier League goals this term and creating two assists, the returns have dried up of late.
The former Ajax man’s last goal came in Spurs’ 3-0 victory over West Brom back in January, meaning he has gone on a run of nine games without hitting the back of the net.
Although Harry Kane has taken up the responsibilities of delivering the side’s goals, Eriksen’s performances as a whole have not been as impressive over the last six weeks – but why?
There is certainly an argument to suggest that the 23-year-old is starting to feel the effects of a long, hard season for Tottenham.
Pochettino’s men have played more games this season than any other Premier League team due to their cup commitments, which is naturally going to take its toll.
From a tactical perspective, Eriksen is best utilised as the number ten in Spurs’ 4-2-3-1 formation, where he started at Old Trafford yesterday.
However, with Spurs being overrun on the flanks, Andros Townsend was removed, Mousa Dembele was put into Eriksen’s preferred role and the Dane was shifted to the left flank.
This is a ploy that Pochettino has used increasingly as the season has worn on, but it has two major negative connotations for Eriksen and, as a result, the team.
Firstly, playing wide means that the attacking midfielder adopts additional defensive responsibilities and is not free to solely focus on orchestrating the side’s possession game. Tracking back incessantly will also only add to the afore-mentioned building fatigue.
Secondly, and more importantly, using Eriksen on a flank takes Spurs’ most technical player out of the thick of the action and nullifies his impact to have an influence on proceedings.
No longer is he able to go where he likes or pick up pockets of space to receive the ball, while he naturally receives possession less in a wide position.
There is no doubting that Eriksen has been an absolute star for Spurs this season and continues to be one of Pochettino’s most important players.
But, by using him on the left wing, Tottenham are nullifying one of the Premier League’s best attacking midfielders and limiting his ability to dictate proceedings when the team have the ball.