5 Reasons Why Tottenham Hotspur Must Keep Hold of Christian Eriksen
The verdict may be out on his fellow arrivals in north London last summer, but the £11.5 million signing from Ajax has enjoyed a campaign that has got better with each passing month.
Understandably, Tottenham are keen to ensure Eriksen hangs around a good while yet.
"You are always fearful that someone might come and take one of your best players and Christian is certainly one," Spurs boss Tim Sherwood said over the weekend, via Sky Sports.
When asked about his plans earlier this month, Eriksen indicated he was satisfied with the situation at White Hart Lane.
"For me the feeling I have at the club isn't dependent on being in the Champions League, I'm happy here and am looking forward to the future," he told the Mirror's Darren Lewis.
As for reasons why the 22-year-old is so important to Spurs, read on...
Eriksen Is One of Tottenham's Best Passers
Christian Eriksen's most obvious quality, his range of passing has been a prominent feature of many of Tottenham's wins this season.
His average pass accuracy of 80 per cent—as recorded by Spurs' official website—is respectable enough. What stands out, however, is the intention and ambition of his attempts to bring others into play.
Eriksen's 10 assists this season have helped fill the void of a creative attacking midfielder left by Gareth Bale (who set up 24 goals in his last two seasons in the Premier League).
Spurs have some fine passers in midfield, including the likes of Nabil Bentaleb and Mousa Dembele (what is in store for a couple of others currently out on loan, Tom Carroll and Lewis Holtby, will certainly be interesting). They are predominantly involved in earlier phases of play, though.
Eriksen's presence will ensure Spurs have someone looking to make the killer pass in promising positions of attack.
Eriksen's Increasing Productivity at Set Pieces
Eriksen's qualities as a passer also extend to dead-ball situations.
He showed as much in last Saturday's 3-1 win over Fulham, setting up goals for Paulinho and Younes Kaboul from free-kicks. Though he admitted to BT Sport—here via the Independent—"the second I really went for goal but it was lucky."
Even aided by a little fortune, Eriksen's delivery across the penalty area was well struck, pacy and with intent to put it into a dangerous area.
The Dane has managed to score from three of his free-kicks this season. The first came at home to West Bromwich Albion on Boxing Day, the latter two also at White Hart Lane, in the Europe League against Dnipro and then Benfica.
Again, it has helped pick up where Bale left off here last season. Considering Spurs were bordering on woeful from free-kicks for years prior to that, even marginal improvement is cause for optimism.
Eriksen's corner kicks could still do with some work. None of his three attempts against Fulham—tallied by Squawka—found a team-mate. Too many of the midfielder's corners fail to make it past the first defender.
Still, overall he is evidently becoming more productive. Spurs' lack of results from set pieces has left them less well-rounded than they would have liked. In Eriksen, they may have found a dead-ball specialist.
Eriksen's versatility is not his most glamorous quality, but it is a useful one for Tottenham.
Tim Sherwood has taken to deploying him from left midfield. He has also played in central midfield this season and initially was predominantly selected off a lone striker.
The 22-year-old has had his moments in all three positions.
In his debut against Norwich City, Eriksen was hugely influential operating from the hole in the 2-0 win. Conducting a number of Spurs' attacks, he was involved in both of Gylfi Sigurdsson's goals.
As the autumn progressed, his effectiveness diminished in attacking midfield before an ankle injury caused him to miss several matches.
After replacing Andre Villas-Boas as manager, Sherwood tried Eriksen deeper before eventually deciding on using him on the left. His performances in 2014 have definitely been better, but that could be as much to do with him becoming more familiar with the English game.
Whatever your opinion on Eriksen's best role, it is no bad thing to have a player able to impact the game from different areas.
Spurs can rely on him to do a job where needed. Do not be shocked if he makes one position firmly his own at some point, though.
A Leader in the Making
"He has just turned 22 and he has a head of a 35-year-old," Sherwood said of Eriksen post-Fulham, via Sky Sports. "He knows when to speed it up and slow it down and Harry Kane is very similar in his development."
Despite his tender age (or perhaps because of the fearlessness that can come with youth), Eriksen has quickly become a prominent figure in the Tottenham side.
His importance can be measured by the fact you can often gauge the health of Spurs' performance going forward through his own contributions.
In the 3-3 draw with West Brom, Spurs definitely benefited from Eriksen coming to life in the second-half. His stoppage-time goal completed their comeback from 3-0 down.
There is only so much he can do, especially out wide where he can just as easily cut a peripheral figure. But there is no mistaking Spurs are generally better when he is more involved.
Incidentally, Sherwood's assessment of Kane's similar effect on the team is accurate. In the first half at the Hawthorns, he helped make up for the quietness of Eriksen and others.
Eriksen's education at Ajax has clearly helped the quickness of his development. He has already represented Denmark 42 times, and there is a maturity and bravery about his best performances.
He has the makings of a great on-pitch leader. Not one to shout and cajole necessarily, but to instruct by deed and behaviour.
Besides Michael Dawson, Hugo Lloris and the eager Younes Kaboul, Spurs do not have many figures capable of setting an important tone in games. Eriksen is looking like being one capable of doing so.
At 22, Eriksen Still Has Plenty of Upside
With all of the things mentioned in this article, what makes them particularly exciting is that Eriksen is liable to get even better.
At only 22 years old, he is already a heck of a player. One who has come along nicely already in his first season with Tottenham.
Eriksen is a different player to Bale (and has obviously taken a different path), but there is a comparison to make in the way their youthful potential has increasingly come to be fulfilled with each passing season.
In terms of goals and assists (20 combined since joining Spurs), the Denmark international is well on course for the most productive season of his young career.
Coming from the weaker Eredivisie, there was no guarantee Eriksen would succeed in the Premier League. He has already got better.
Tottenham will want to make sure they are the club with which Eriksen goes on to enjoy even brighter days.