Christian Eriksen is joint top of the Premier League assists’ chart this season. The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder has created more chances than any other player in the division, and comfortably so.
At the club, he is known as “Golazo,” according to Mauricio Pochettino; a Spanish term that essentially translates as “screamer” – as in, screaming goal. Eriksen scores them all the time in training, often from free-kicks, which have become his trademark.
But outside Tottenham and his native Denmark, it is questionable whether his contribution to the cause of the second-placed team in England has been fully appreciated. Certainly, he is some way down the list of the club’s most discussed attack-minded players.
Eriksen does not care. He is happy to let his feet do the talking and he will continue to do so in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off against Bournemouth at White Hart Lane.
“Christian is a player that does not need too much the feedback of the fans, the media and the people outside,” Pochettino said. “I like that a lot. He does not need to be recognised. He needs only to feel the love from us inside the club, and he does.
“He is so special and we always call him Golazo, because he is capable of scoring unbelievable goals. The recognition from us is massive. It is true he is so quiet, so calm. He is a very relaxed person but he loves football.”
It is well known Pochettino prizes tactical flexibility in his players. They must be able to play in more than one position and, after Dele Alli made the No10 position his own in Pochettino’s 4-2-3-1 formation, Eriksen had to adapt to a role off the flank, normally the left but sometimes the right. It was one that afforded him the license to roam inside. Eriksen adapted.
The flexibility cuts both ways and, so central to Tottenham’s ambitions is Eriksen, that Pochettino has been forced to find a system which gets the Dane into as central an area as possible. Hence, the 3-4-2-1, which Pochettino describes as having “two No10s” – Eriksen and Alli.
The formation also provides the means to accommodate Eric Dier, along with the midfielders Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembélé. Dier, who wants to play in defensive midfield, has had to adapt to a role on the right of the defensive three. With Wanyama available again to face Bournemouth, after a back injury, Harry Kane fit to start after his knee problem and Son Heung-min in fine form, it will be interesting to see what gives.
It is unlikely to be Eriksen, whose 11 league assists have him level with Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and Swansea City’s Gylfi Sigurdsson. According to Opta, Eriksen has created 89 goalscoring chances. The next best creator is De Bruyne with 77.
“If you have two players like Christian and Dele, who can play in the pocket behind the No9, you must create a system that can fit them both,” Pochettino said. “That is what it means to be flexible. You can see how Christian and Dele use the pocket and how we create different things to swap them between the right and left and, sometimes, to drop them to build from the back when teams play deeper against us.
“We try to play now with two No10s, who face the opponents’ goal, rather than have their backs to it. The system and the philosophy helps Christian and Dele a lot. And they help a lot with the system and the philosophy. It’s in both directions.”