For more than six years, Christian Eriksen has been a key figure in the Tottenham Hotspurs squad. While Harry Kane has received much of the glory for his high goal-scoring tally, Eriksen was often the straw that stirred the drink.
However, it seems as if those days are coming to an end. Whether Spurs are able to unload him during the January window or watch him walk away from North London on a free transfer next summer, Eriksen’s days with the Lilly Whites are numbered.
The drama surrounding Eriksen and other players potentially leaving the club dominated most of Tottenham’s summer. The Danish midfielder seemed to have his heart set on a move to one of the giants in Spain or Italy, but such a move never came.
Just a couple of months ago, the idea of life without Eriksen seemed frightening for the club and its supports as well as anyone who bet on the club on https://all-bets.com/. But it seems as if Spurs have had a replacement for him right under their nose all along: Dele Alli.
With Eriksen stuck in limbo, it made it difficult for Mauricio Pochettino to use him. Undoubtedly, the Tottenham squad was better with Eriksen in the starting 11.
On the other hand, it didn’t make sense to give consistent playing time to a player who was unwilling to commit his future to the club. After all, sooner or later, Spurs would have to find a way to get by without him.
The quandary surrounding Eriksen made Pochettino’s job early in the 2019-20 campaign all the more difficult. The Dane’s presence in the lineup or not was a constant topic of discussion, and without his heart fully invested in Tottenham, Eriksen’s contributions were not as frequent or significant as in the past.
In the end, the situation with Eriksen was at least a contributing factor in the struggles that eventually led to Pochettino being fired in late November.
New Man In Charge
Then José Mourinho came along, replacing Pochettino as the Tottenham skipper. Among the tactical changes the Portuguese manager made early in his Spurs tenure was playing Dele at the No. 10 position, a spot frequently occupied by Eriksen under Pochettino.
While that’s not the only change Mourinho has instituted at Spurs, there’s no denying that Dele playing in a central position, often directly underneath Kane, has worked like a charm and been one of the biggest reasons why Tottenham has suddenly turned things around after the change of manager.
In the first five Premier League matches under Mourinho, Dele scored three goals and dished out six assists, directly contributing to six of the club’s 14 goals. With Dele in a new spot and starting to adjust to Mourinho’s tactics, Tottenham has come alive offensively, winning four of their first five matches under their new manager despite continued shortcomings on the defensive end of the pitch.
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More importantly, Dele has experienced a personal renaissance under the new manager. While his reputation as one of the most crafty and brilliant technical players in the Premier League never wavered, there’s no denying Dele experienced a drop in form late in Pochettino’s tenure.
Dele continued to play an important role during last season’s run to the Champions League finals, but he scored just one goal in his last Premier League games of the 2018-19 season. Those struggles continued into the current season, contributing to Dele losing his spot with the England National Team.
However, Mourinho’s subtle position change with Dele has made all the difference. Since Spurs first discovered him as a teenager while he was tearing apart League One at MK Dons, Dele has been best when he’s playing in the center of the pitch.
Pochettino’s style often afforded him the opportunity to move about freely. But he was often pushed to wide areas, with Eriksen serving as the main playmaker in the center of the field.
Given his ball control, creativity, and ability to operate in tight spaces, Dele is able to excel in the No. 10 role where Mourinho has positioned him.
“It’s just him coming back to his best. Playing in a position, in a system that he feels comfortable,” Mourinho said of Dele following the team’s 3-2 win over Bournemouth in late November, adding that when Dele is comfortable, he has the “freedom to express his amazing creativity.”
No Longer A Fear
Perhaps more important than Dele finding his way under a new manager is the fact that Eriksen’s inevitable exit no longer feels that daunting for Spurs. With Dele, they have found the creative force in the attacking band that they need.
With Kane at striker and Lucas Moura and Son Heung-Min playing on the wings, Mourinho has quickly found his preferred attacking lineup. With 14 goals in five Premier League games, the results speak for themselves. With Dele in top form, Tottenham is now able to not just survive but thrive without Eriksen in the lineup.
Finally, it’s best to keep in mind that Dele is just 23 years old. Even with more than four Premier League seasons, not to mention World Cup experience, under his belt, it’s easy to forget that he’s still one of the youngest players in the Tottenham squad and one of the youngest stars in the Premier League.
His best days may very well be ahead of him, and those days appear to involve Dele replacing Eriksen as the creative force in Tottenham’s attack.