Tottenham have a great record against Stoke in the Premier League and had won in four of their last five matches at the Bet365 Stadium, but they had to dig in to collect the points on Saturday.
The home side didn’t lie down and showed fight as they attempt to climb out of danger at the bottom of the Premier League table. The visitors needed one of their players to step up and deliver a match-winning performance, which is exactly what Christian Eriksen managed to do.
The development of this Tottenham team has been great to watch in recent seasons.
Harry Kane and Dele Alli have both emerged as two of the best English players in the Premier League, while Son Heung-Min’s development has seen him earn a lot of praise.
However, Eriksen doesn’t get the credit that he deserves for his improvement and consistency in midfield.
Since Mauricio Pochettino took over, the Danish international has been a regular starter, but he has had to play in a number of different positions.
Eriksen has shown good adaptability and this season has managed to bring his game to a new level operating in a freer role behind the striker. The return of Kane on Saturday was important as that provides more freedom to his midfield team-mate to roam and run the game.
Against Stoke, Eriksen showed the threat he poses in the final third, both with his goal threat and creativity.
The opening goal came when Dele Alli held up the ball and played a nice cut-back to the onrushing 26-year-old who coolly finished the move.
It was a great show of awareness and desire from the Danish international as he busted a gut to make sure his team-mate had an option. He is often praised for his passing and creativity, but this goal showed that he can offer more than that.
During the match, he had six shots and made two key passes, in addition to completing two tackles. It was a complete performance from Eriksen and he played a huge role in the winning goal.
There has been a lot of debate about who scored the winner, but the majority of news sources have given it to the Dane. Regardless of whether Harry Kane got a touch or not, it was an excellent set-piece delivery and it was a piece of skill that led to the goal.
This is set to be Eriksen’s best goal-scoring season since arriving at the club. He has now reached the ten-goal mark and he has only managed to do that once before, which came during the 2014/15 season and, with six matches to play, he is likely to better that tally.
This season his shooting accuracy has increased to 67% from 52% last season. That represents a sharp increase and suggests that he has been working on that part of his game.
In terms of creativity, his contribution and underlying stats have slightly regressed, but he remains one of the best midfielders in the league in this department.
His averages chances created per ninety minutes has dropped from 3.19 to 2.59. Meanwhile, he has eight assists this season, which is down from 15. That will be an area of disappointment, but it has been a positive season of continued improvement, overall, from Eriksen.
Tottenham remain in the driving seat when it comes to finishing in the Champions League places as they have established a healthy lead over Chelsea. However, Pochettino won’t want to settle for that and will want his players to push on to finish as high as possible.
At the time of writing, they are four points behind Manchester United in second and are set to face Jose Mourinho’s men in the FA Cup semi-final.
If they are to finish second and win the FA Cup, they will need Eriksen as his best and his performance on Saturday suggests that he is hitting top form at the right time of the season.