The best player in the Premier League is a topic that is often discussed in pubs around the country and on social media. Kevin de Bruyne is a popular suggestion as he has been at the centre of Manchester City’s great start to the season. Eden Hazard, Paul Pogba, Sergio Aguero, Philippe Coutinho and Alexis Sanchez are other suggestions put forward by the various supporters of top-six clubs.
At Tottenham, Harry Kane and Dele Alli are regarded as the star players by the wider community. Christian Eriksen is underrated within the national media, but Spurs’ supporters will attest to his improvement and consistency during the last 12 months. The Danish international is now regularly influencing matches and has established himself as one of the best midfielders in the Premier League.
It was important that Tottenham beat Bournemouth at the weekend to post their first Premier League victory at Wembley. Although the hoodoo at their temporary home was perhaps overstated, it would have been playing on the minds of the players and it is good that they managed to get the three points on Saturday. Eriksen was key to their victory as he scored the only goal of the game. It wasn’t a pretty game, but he stepped up when the team needed him.
He was started on the right of the three attacking midfielders, but his intelligent movement allowed him to remain a constant threat to the Bournemouth defence. Alli and Eriksen have an almost-telepathic relationship, which was evident on Saturday as they interchanged positions effectively. The 25-year-old was a danger throughout the match as he attempted four shots and made three key passes.
Not only does Eriksen offer a huge threat going forward, but he is willing to put a shift in for the team. He won two aerial duels and won one of his two attempted tackles. However, his key defensive contribution can’t be quantified by a single statistic, as he is relentless in his pressing and has advanced a lot under the tutelage of Mauricio Pochettino.
This will be Eriksen’s fifth full season as a Tottenham player and he is now reaching the level that the club hoped he would at the time of signing. The Danish midfielder was regarded as one of the best players to come through the Ajax academy in a number of years and at the age of 25, he still has room to improve in the near future. He will benefit from playing in the Champions League and Tuesday’s match against Real Madrid will be a good opportunity to judge how far he has come.
His progression under Mauricio Pochettino
There were a number of doubters both within the media and the Spurs fan-base when it was Mauricio Pochettino who was appointed to succeed Tim Sherwood at White Hart Lane. The Argentine did a great job at Southampton, but it was a huge step up to manage in North London. Tottenham wanted to become regulars in the Champions League and for a manager without a major trophy to his name, that looked a big ask.
However, Pochettino has done that and the club are now considered as title contenders on a yearly basis. They have yet to win a trophy, but they are a side that continues to develop and Pochettino’s ability to develop young players is a major reason for that. Eriksen was 22 at the time that the Argentine was appointed as manager and at a crucial stage of his development process.
During his first season in England, the Danish international did well, contributing seven goals and eight assists. He was one of the better performers of the seven players signed in the summer of 2013. The likes of Paulinho, Erik Lamela and Robeto Soldado failed to make an impact, but the midfielder signed from Ajax did enough to prove that he had a big future at the club. That said, he was at an early stage of his career and he needed a coach that could get the best from him. Tim Sherwood wasn’t that man and he will have been delighted when Pochettino, known for his work with young players, came in at the beginning of the 2014/15 campaign.
Since Pochettino has been Tottenham manager, Eriksen has been one of his most trusted lieutenants, featuring in 117 of the 122 Premier League matches during that time. He is rarely injured and he has learned how to deal with the physical demands of the system being played by the Argentine manager. Throughout that period, Eriksen has contributed 27 goals and 33 assists, with a goal involvement every 165.3 minutes. That is very impressive, but it has been since the summer of 2015 that he has truly emerged as one of the best players in the division.
Eriksen has had a goal involvement every 144.2 minutes since the beginning of the 2015/16 campaign. To put this into context, Kevin de Bruyne has had a goal involvement of 154.5 minutes, while Eden Hazard’s stands at 168.2 minutes. Despite not being considered as the best player in the division, the Tottenham midfielder has been the best of the three during that time period and has displayed a consistency that the other two have yet to match.
His underlying stats back up his attacking contribution and suggest that he is likely to consolidate his position as one of the best in the Premier League during the coming years. Since the start of the 2015/16 season, Eriksen has averaged 3.25 chances created and 3.4 shots attempted per ninety minutes. This underlines the threat that he poses in the final third and his quality end product means that he regularly backs these up with goals and assists.
Pochettino has been central in bringing out the best in Eriksen as he is utilised in a role that suits him and gets him as involved in the game as possible. The 25-year-old is regularly at the centre of the side’s attacking play and is arguably more important than either Alli or Kane in terms of what he offers. He is the player that links up the build-up play and often plays the killer pass that opens up the opposition defence.
The fact that he has already scored three Premier League goals this season suggests he is becoming an even bigger goal threat on his own merit. That will take him to a whole new level. Although he hasn’t been widely discussed when it comes to being the best player in the Premier League, Eriksen certainly deserves to be based on his consistency and attacking contribution.