Why Christian Eriksen is Tottenham's most underrated star
Amid all the reports about Christian Eriksen's recent contract negotiations, there was a surprising claim. It wasn't that the Dane was reportedly asking for £150,000 a week before putting pen to paper on a new four-year deal at the start of September. No, the thing that was perhaps more startling was that up until then, according to the Evening Standard at least, Eriksen was earning only £30,000 each week.
True, £30,000 is a huge wage for the average man, but in the world of football that horse has long since bolted. In an industry where salaries have spiralled, Eriksen's reported pay seemed staggeringly out of kilter with what now represents market value in the Premier League. If correct, Spurs had got themselves a pretty good deal when they signed the midfielder from Ajax three years ago.
Eriksen may not make quite the same number of headlines as some of his colleagues – Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier were the focus of attention last season, while the performances of Moussa Dembele were rightly lauded. Even the revived Erik Lamela was arguably talked about more last term. Both Dembele and Lamela reportedly earned more than twice as much as Eriksen last season, according to that article in the Evening Standard.
This season the attention has turned to Son Heung-min, and yet Eriksen is always there and always influential, but rarely given nearly enough credit for the class that he oozes with every touch of the ball.
Pulling the strings against City
Eriksen has shown his versatility by often playing in a wide role for Spurs in recent times, even though central midfield would seem to be the position most suited to his own particular set of skills. Against Manchester City, he was utilised in the middle and quietly ran the game.
Eriksen was Tottenham's top passer, completing 39, and was the match's top distributor in the crucial opening 40 minutes when Spurs took control and raced into a 2-0 lead.
Despite operating in the centre he often drifted into wide areas, as can be seen from where he collected many of the 38 passes he received. Most of the time they were short ones played inside from the wideman – Eriksen always made himself available, ready to pick up the ball and progress the attack.
Dane provides end product
Many consummate passers of the ball are often players who are content to sit deep and look for the short pass to feet, without ever really troubling the opposition goal.
Eriksen isn't one of those players. He can pass and provide an end product, as his stats over the past few seasons show. Eight goals and 16 assists last season, 12 goals and five assists in 2014/15, 12 goals and 16 assists in 2013/14.
In particular he's a threat from set-pieces, both with his accurate delivery from out wide and his ability to find the net from more central free-kicks. In this game he created one chance and had four shots on goal. None found the net, but two troubled Claudio Bravo and only Sergio Aguero had more efforts during the match.
Making his mark in the middle
His most impressive statistics against Manchester City were not his passing ones, however, but those illustrating the way he helped to start Tottenham attacks. Eriksen made a huge 16 ball recoveries during the game – to put that into context, during the game between Manchester United and Stoke City on the same afternoon, no player made more than seven.
Many of those were in central areas, perhaps showing the true value of utilising him in the heart of the action. Eriksen also made four interceptions, the most of any Spurs player. All of them occurred in the middle of the pitch.
The frightening thing about it all is that Eriksen is still only 24, yet it feels like he's been around forever. The man born in Middelfart (no sniggering at the back) has already amassed 63 caps for Denmark and looks likely to surpass Peter Schmeichel's record tally of 129 appearances in the future.
There was a reason why Barcelona, Real Madrid, Milan, Chelsea and Manchester United all looked at Eriksen before he joined Ajax at 16, and those reasons are as evident today as they were back then.
Their loss has ultimately been Tottenham's gain. Would Spurs have been quite the force they were last season without his serene presence in midfield? Would they have beaten Pep Guardiola's Manchester City so impressively and now be sat just one point from the top of the table this term, if they did not have Eriksen pulling the strings?
We can never know the definitive answer to those questions, but the Dane's performances speak for themselves.