How would Christian Eriksen fit in at Tottenham Hotspur next season?
If you're tired already of speculation about the future of Ajax's Christian Eriksen, then the next few months may get on your last nerve. The 21-year-old is set to be one of the summer's most in-demand transfer targets, at least going by the transfer tittle-tattle.
The Daily Express has this week alone reported on interest from Inter Milan and Chelsea. Given the way in which Manchester United are romping away with the Premier League title this season, a marquee signing of Eriksen's caliber (or status) seems likely to be on the agenda of several English clubs seeking to claw back the distance.
Tottenham Hotspur are one such club. Eriksen was mooted as a potential signing in January, and this month the London Evening Standard has been among those suggesting a move could be on the horizon. Should he join, Eriksen would be an intriguing fit in the current Tottenham setup.
Spurs are not lacking for (what is broadly recognized as) attacking midfielders, or those at least who make significant contributions to that side of things. Anyone who has watched them this season has seen (among others) Clint Dempsey playing just off a lone striker, Gylfi Sigurdsson coming in from wide, Gareth Bale catching the eye doing both and Mousa Dembele driving forward from deep.
Eriksen would be signed with complementing the roles of the latter two rather than replacing them, but Dempsey and Sigurdsson may have more to worry about. That is at the heart of the purported pursuing of the Denmark international—is he an upgrade on those with whom he would be vying for minutes at Spurs?
Potentially yes. The nimble and skillful Eriksen brings a different kind of mobility to the directer Dempsey and the more statically inclined Sigurdsson, and he might be the sort of player Spurs need to open up a new stream of creativity on their more uninspired days.
Those two can claim greater Premier League experience though, and before the season is out, they may well have reiterated their worth to the Tottenham cause. There may be a situation where Andre Villas-Boas might like to retain both (alongside others) in addition to recruiting Eriksen.
If all that is to do with squad depth, then what about the Dane's place in the actual team.
Spurs have generally fared better this season playing a 4-2-3-1 formation—that triumvirate behind a lone striker would likely be where Eriksen would be deployed. On paper at least, the thought of a trio consisting of Eriksen in between Bale and Aaron Lennon sounds very exciting.
With such exciting talent all seeking to get on the ball and influence proceedings, teams can straddle the line between becoming an overwhelming attacking force or too many cooks spoiling the broth. At Chelsea this season there has been a pertinent example of that challenge, with Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Victor Moses and Marko Marin at various points trying to assert themselves behind Fernando Torres or Demba Ba leading the line.
Spurs would differ from the respect that Bale and especially Lennon are traditionally wide-men, and could be relied upon to strike a balance as they often have with Dempsey and others in that central role. The bigger test for Eriksen in this proposed lineup would be how he would fare operating between midfield and upfront.
Premier League football is a different beast to what he is used to in the Eredivisie. This is not to suggest that Eriksen could not thrive in England, just that coordinating himself positionally with his teammates would come with different demands.
Dropping deep to pick up the ball from a Scott Parker or Sandro runs a slightly greater risk of getting knocked aside by opposition midfielders less willing to grant him that time. A first instinct to make a run for a Dembele through ball might require Eriksen adapting his thought process in the face of central defenders closing off his intended route.
It is impossible to know how well Eriksen might fit at Tottenham unless it happens. Getting to that point in the decision-making process is not only down to his prospective role on the pitch, but also how Spurs finish the season and his own career considerations.
If nothing else, it is something to consider in the meantime in according some sense and perspective to the many rumors relating to Eriksen's future.