Tottenham Hotspur are currently top of the Premier League table and even though it is early days, they have to be considered genuine title contenders having lost just once thus far.
And Jose Mourinho has Harry Kane and Heung-min Son’s form largely to thank for their impressive start to the season. The prolific and red-hot duo combined again to down arch-rivals Arsenal on Sunday afternoon.
18 of the 23 goals scored by the north Londoners in the English top-flight have come from that very attacking partnership – in total, Kane has scored eight goals and assisted ten more while Son has found the net ten times and has also provided three assists, per WhoScored.
But for all of their dominance and writing of the headlines, it is Mourinho’s defence that has gone under the radar, particularly the performances of Eric Dier.
It’s now five clean sheets in their last six Premier League outings, which includes matches against the Gunners, Chelsea and even Manchester City.
What a turn around it has been for the English colossus…
The 26-year-old looked certain to be heading for a career crossroad under former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino – no one knew whether he was best suited as a defensive midfielder or as a centre-back, which often meant others were selected over him.
Before the Argentine was sacked, Dier had played just two full 90-minute matches from 12 outings in the early days of the 2019/20 season.
Speaking to The Athletic about his potential position change, Dier said:
“I went to see him, it was more about my position and where I was playing. We had spoken for many years about me gradually making that transition back to centre-back. For the last three years we’d had many conversations on it. And it was me saying to him: for me, it was now. And if it wasn’t for him, we’d have to find another solution.”
Well, Dier was used just once as a centre-back by Pochettino after that conversation. Clearly, the ex-Spurs chief never truly fancied him in the role as in the previous two seasons, the 6 foot 2 powerhouse made just four appearances as a central defender.
Eric Dier: "I didn't feel like I was achieving what I wanted. When your contract starts to come to an end, you question part of the future."
"I had no desire to be at a club in the last year of my contract. The club knew the summer would see a decision made either way." pic.twitter.com/3gPGGFBMvp
— The Spurs Web ⚪️ (@thespursweb) December 5, 2020
Now you only have to look at him under Mourinho to see the incredible shift in talent. He has started all but one of the Premier League matches at centre-back with Spurs currently ranking as the top-flight’s best defence having only leaked nine goals.
“For me, that was the biggest part of wanting to stay at Tottenham and sign the new deal – it was purely footballing. I was really happy that Mourinho would give me the opportunity to play centre-back again and to prove myself there. I’m really excited,” Dier told GQ magazine.
No other top-flight player has managed more headed clearances (37) either.
It’s no wonder pundits have been quick to praise his form this season.
Ex-Spurs midfielder Jermaine Jenas dubbed Dier “sensational” after defeating City whilst Gary Neville told Sky Sports (via football.london) at the weekend: “He’s got pace, he’s a good leader, a good character, he’s good on the ball and he’s defending really well.”
The €30m-rated (£27m) centre-back rightly deserves just as much praise as Messrs Kane and Son, even more so if they pull off the unthinkable, after all… defence wins you championships.