Tottenham vs. Chelsea: Analysing the Roles of Christian Eriksen and Juan Mata

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentSeptember 28, 2013

Tottenham Hotspur drew 1-1 with Chelsea at White Hart Lane Saturday, but it was a game about what Christian Eriksen and Juan Mata didn't do. 

Eriksen, an £11.5 million signing from Ajax, created a goal against Norwich City, and you had to appreciate his brilliant goal against Tromso. 

Yet he was anonymous against Chelsea, bar one bright moment that led to Roberto Soldado passing the ball to Gylfi Sigurdsson for Spurs' opening goal.

Photo via FFT Stats Zone
Photo via FFT Stats Zone

Eriksen started in the middle with Sigurdsson on the left and Andros Townsend on the right. 

Behind Eriksen was the powerful and complete midfield duo of Mousa Dembele and Paulinho. 

  • Sigurdsson scored and completed more passes than Eriksen despite not being a primary passing outlet. 
  • Townsend was wasteful again. 
  • Paulinho's marauding runs created problems for the Blues in the first half, and he hit the post. He had a poor second half, which can be attributed to Ramires being moved from the flanks to a central position. 
  • Dembele had to constantly create something out of nothing (he completed the most dribbles in the game with eight), and he played well with Jan Vertonghen (11 passing combinations) but not Eriksen.

It's not the be-all, end-all that Eriksen didn't score or create a goal against Chelsea.

What is puzzling is that Hugo Lloris made more passes (28) than Eriksen (21), who was rightly subbed off.

Since he wasn't influential, Soldado, a goal poacher, failed to score, meaning Spurs didn't push on for the win. 

Photo via Squawka
Photo via Squawka
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If you've followed Eriksen's career closely, you know of his tendency to come up small when it counts. 

He would look world-class against a weak side like NEC Nijmegen or Roda, but it took him three years to score against PSV in the Eredivisie.

In the KNVB Cup final loss to Twente, Eriksen was outshone by Siem de Jong, who created two goals.

He never scored in all six defeats to Real Madrid and was unusually quiet in most of those games (only one assist). 

Then there was the 253 minutes of worthlessness in Euro 2012, though you had to give him a pass if you read what he told Goal.com's Greg Stobart.

"I need to play and develop rather than rush in to a big step and make a mistake," Eriksen said. "I don't think it matters how I play here [at Euro 2012]."

Implication of the quote: "I'm not ready to play with the big boys."

Now it makes sense why he never won the Eredivisie's best player of the year award and why there was a growing view that then Heerenveen playmaker Filip Duricic, now with Benfica, was as good as Eriksen but minus the fanfare.  

Here is Peter Schmeichel's view of Eriksen, via Amy Lawrence at The Guardian, and take notice of the way he worded his response. 

"We do not yet know his mental strength," Schmeichel said. "There is huge pressure on him and I hope he can handle it."

Spurs supporters are hoping Eriksen's display against Chelsea doesn't foreshadow future performances in big games. 

Meanwhile, Mata has been treated with disdain by Jose Mourinho. 

It's rivaling Andre Villas-Boas' treatment of Romelu Lukaku during the 2011-12 season. 

The key difference is Lukaku didn't have status at the club, whereas Mata, Chelsea's two-time Player of the Year, should be afforded leeway if he doesn't play well. 

If Mata wasn't on the field, Chelsea would have been beaten by Tottenham because it was his assist from a free-kick that enabled John Terry to score. 

Photo via Squawka
Photo via Squawka

Mata spent 46.7 percent of the time in a central position, which contradicts Mourinho's plan moving forward.

"I want to build with Oscar as my No. 10," Mourinho told Matt McGeehan at The Independent. "If somebody tells me that Oscar is not Chelsea's best player since the beginning of the season, I'd have to disagree."

Good cameo appearance from Mata, but you're naive if you think Mourinho has changed his opinion on the Spaniard.

"I'm not ready to ask Oscar to track opposing full-backs," Mourinho said, via Dominic Fifield at The Guardian. "I want the other two players, from the side, to adapt."

Mata's weakness, an inability to consistently win back possession, isn't even a trait needed in a No. 10. 

You can't help but wonder if Mourinho is trying to drive Mata out the club. 

Photo via @FootyHumour
Photo via @FootyHumour

It's clear: Mata isn't one of Mourinho's boys. 

There's one quote from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a former Mourinho loyalist, which perfectly sums up the situation, via Tom Chivers at The Telegraph

"You bought a Ferrari, but you drive it like a Fiat."

Statistics via WhoScoredFFT Stats ZoneSquawka and Transfermarkt

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