Christian Eriksen has been in fine form for Tottenham Hotspur this season and arguably some of the best form of his career.
With the Dane also playing a key role in Spurs’ title challenge, was he unfortunate to not be considered for the prestigious Professional Footballer’s Association Player of the Year Award?
Why does Eriksen deserve it?
The Dane’s performances this season have been pivotal to Spurs’ title push. So much so that the team's form drops with his. He is the heartbeat of the Spurs attack, creating chance after chance for his teammates.
Eriksen has picked up 11 assists this season, tied at the top with Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne and Swansea City midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson, but the Dane is miles ahead with the amount of chances he has created this season. Eriksen sits at the top of the leader-board with 88 chances this season, his closest opponent, De Bruyne follows with 75. The midfielder has also completed the most key passes in the league, with 77 compared to De Bruyne’s 64. In attacking threat the midfielder has outperformed every other player in the league, as well as out doing Riyad Mahrez’s Player of the Year winning season.
On top of this, Eriksen has been able to thrive in numerous formations this season. Spurs have adopted the 3-4-3 formation as of late, but throughout the season have also played a 4-3-2-1 and a 4-1-4-1 all of which Eriksen has adapted well to. The midfielder is effective at not only finding pockets of space to exploit but he creates them too, in all the different formations. Through his movement and positioning on and off the ball Eriksen creates areas in which his teammates can move into and knows when to play the pass to exploit this. This cleverness not only allows him to create goals but also starts attacks. The Dane plays the pass before the pass that leads to the goal, making him even more important to Spurs’ attack. This was shown in Spurs’ 2-0 win over Manchester City at the beginning of the season Eriksen took up a deeper role, partnered with Victor Wanyama Eriksen was able to recycle any interceptions made by the Kenyan to re-launch an attack meaning Tottenham were able to overboard City with pressure.
It is also notable that Eriksen performs against the bigger teams, something that he has previously been criticised for not doing. This season he scored one and assisted two goals against league leaders Chelsea, while also had an influential role when Spurs hosted City as aforementioned.
So why is Eriksen over looked?
First and foremost Eriksen has only scored seven goals this season, with N’Golo Kante being the only nominee to have scored less than 10. If you look at Mahrez’s season last year he scored 17 goals, Eden Hazard the winner the season prior to that had scored 14. In fact Eriksen has only hit double figures for goals once in his four seasons in the English Premier League.
On top of this, a lot of the work Eriksen does for his team goes unnoticed. While he might not seem it, in Mauricio Pochettino’s side he has covered the most distance 19 times this season. His cool and calm composure on the ball means that he makes his skill look easier than it is. Eriksen isn’t a flashy player, which means that his work often goes under the radar. Take Tottenham’s third goal against Swansea for example. For the whole of the attack Eriksen is left in space. He knows he is unmarked and when he finally receives the ball no one will be able to get to him in time. Eriksen then effortlessly glides into the space left exposed by Swansea’s defence. He knows it’s there and times his run into in to perfection. Once on the ball he performed a small dummy allows him to use the defender as a shield, and so blocking off Fabianski’s view as he takes a shot at goal. Yet the Dane made it look so easy.
Under Pochettino the Dane continues to improve. With Pochettino commenting in the past that “We are here to push him to improve every day and achieve a different level” and if Eriksen continues to perform as he is it is almost certain that he will be nominated for the award in the future, despite being unlucky this time around.