Analysis: Can Eriksen and Alli play effectively in the same side?

Analysis: Can Eriksen and Alli play effectively in the same side?

Both players prefer the role behind the striker but can they function together to the best of their ability in the same team?

Francesca Byrne

Both Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli thrive as the central attacking midfielder and both are vital members to Tottenham Hotspur’s attacking threat.

The two players have completely different styles of play, Alli on one hand is very dynamic and playful, Eriksen on the other hand is very collected and calm on the ball.

Their contrasting styles of play balance each other perfectly while adding numerous options for Tottenham on the attacking front, which is why both are regular first team starters for the club.

Yet the fact that they both flourish in the same position is a actually dilemma for Spurs.

Last season, Mauricio Pochettino operated under a 4-2-3-1 formation, which they have carried through to this season, as well as experimenting with a 4-1-4-1 formation.

In the two different formations Eriksen and Alli take different roles. Obviously, form and circumstances within the game effect performances - but which suits the players, and the team, more?


When Spurs first implemented this formation, Eriksen was the sole midfielder who was capable to fill the CAM role. The Dane, with his ability to control games, thrived in this position as he launched and drove attacks.

Eriksen was and still is the metronome of this Tottenham team. When he dips in form the squad doesn’t play as well and when he is at the peak of his ability, the team is more often than not immaculate.

Yet this is a problem for Tottenham as it means the team’s form depends on his, and Eriksen can tend to be very inconsistent.

However, the arrival of Dele Alli pushed Eriksen out onto the wing. Alli is a very dynamic player. He thrives in the hole behind the striker, where he is able to make runs into the box to break the lines and by doing so he creates chances for himself or others.

Yet, due to this, it has meant that Eriksen has increasingly found himself on the left wing. Automatically this makes Eriksen less effective as he has less control of the game.

However, in general it isn’t a massive problem as the front three players behind the strike often rotate. If anything this move makes the team slightly unbalanced at time, as Eriksen tends to drift into the center of the pitch.

This means that it is harder for Tottenham to press teams early on and higher up the pitch, as the left flank is free.


The other option the team have adapted, Tottenham first used this formation against Manchester City, a game they eventually won 2-0.

That day, Spurs started with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Victor Wanyama and Alli making up the double pivot and Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen and Moussa Sissoko forming the attacking three behind Heung Min-Son.

However, as the game progressed, Alli pushed forward into his usual position behind the striker to create an attacking four. Eriksen also continued to play down the center but in a much more deeper position than usual.

This change meant that Eriksen could still control the game like normal and is not pushed out wide making the team unbalanced. It also allows Alli to run at defences and so catching them out, which could be the potential solution.


Both systems balance pros and cons, both for the team, and for Eriksen and Alli - and it's clear that Pochettino must soon decide which one is more beneficial as when both of his attacking midfielders are on form - so are the rest of his team.