Jan Vertonghen feels Christian Eriksen has been fulfilling his potential over the past two years and should now be ranked among the best playmakers in the world.
The Dane scored 12 goals and set up another 23 for Tottenham last season and, having notched Spurs’ third at West Ham on Saturday, he has already netted twice and created another four goals this term.
The 25-year-old was additionally involved in the build-up to Spurs’ other two strikes in east London, even if he did not lay on the final pass and will not be credited with assists for those.
Vertonghen played with Eriksen at Ajax before the pair were reunited at Tottenham, and the Belgian defender said: “I think Christian has made unbelievable progress.
“I’ve known him for many years and he’s always been a great talent, a great player, but definitely in the last two seasons he’s made great progress.
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“Everyone always said that you have to be the best playmaker in the world with his quality and I think definitely the last years have seen big, big steps forward.
“He’s scoring goals and giving assists and even when he drops a line – what he’s done for us in a couple of games – he does very well. For me Christian, especially in the last two seasons, has been enormous.”
Asked if Eriksen should be considered among the best in the world in his position, Vertonghen said: “I believe so, yes.”
Eriksen will get another chance to show his ability on the European stage tomorrow as Tottenham travel to Cyprus to visit Apoel Nicosia in their second Champions League group match.
But they are flying without Vertonghen, who was shown two yellow cards when Spurs beat Borussia Dortmund in their last continental encounter – the second for accidentally catching Mario Gotze with a swinging arm.
“Obviously I want to play every game – every cup game, every league game,” he said. “It’s a shame, I don’t think I deserved that red card. But if [I didn’t get it] I’m on a yellow card and can miss any other game with another yellow. I’ve got confidence in the team. I’m suspended now but it’s only one game.”
Dele Alli is also suspended – and Vertonghen’s countryman Mousa Dembele could miss the game too as he continues to struggle with a long-term foot problem, having been absent from Saturday’s matchday squad against West Ham.
Asked whether Dembele has grown frustrated with the issue, Vertonghen said: “It’s hard to tell, I’m not a doctor. I can’t really say. He feels his own body the best and hopefully he’s back 100 per cent real quick because he’s a very important player for us.
“Of course we’ve got some other options – Moussa Sissoko can play in that role as well, we’ve got Winksy (Harry Winks) on the bench and [Victor] Wanyama coming back. Eric [Dier] has done brilliantly there.
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“When we play five at the back, we need one midfielder less so it’s easier for us to make a different formation.
“Sissoko did very well there on Saturday. Maybe he’s used to playing on the side a bit more but he did very well for us in that position. He can be a good solution for us.”
Spurs played three successive home games at Wembley between September 13 and 19, hosting Dortmund, Swansea and Barnsley, but they are now in the midst of a run of three away matches, visiting Apoel and Huddersfield this week after just triumphing at West Ham.
There is a theory that being on the road suits Spurs, however, because their opponents show more ambition in their own stadiums and give their visitors more space.
Tottenham have failed to win any of their home league games at Wembley, only managing two goals in those three matches after losing 2-1 to Chelsea and then being held to draws by Burnley (1-1) and Swansea respectively (0-0).
On the other hand, the Lilywhites have been victorious in all three of their away games in the top flight, netting eight times.
Harry Kane has stated “you could say it’s maybe a bit more open away and we take advantage of that” – and Vertonghen feels similarly.
“Maybe, yes,” he said. “They have to come out a bit more for their own crowd and that’s to our benefit. We get a bit more space away from home.”
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