Spurs boss feels he’s found a system that suits midfield pair
PUBLISHED: 11:58 15 April 2014 | UPDATED: 11:59 15 April 2014
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When Christian Eriksen followed Nacer Chadli to White Hart Lane last summer, it appeared that one would occupy a central role while the other would play out wide – probably on the left.
So it has proved in the last two games against Sunderland and West Brom, but not in the way that Spurs fans would originally have expected.
Chadli seemingly arrived as a winger, and that was how he started out at Spurs – on the left flank – while Eriksen immediately took up a position as a No10 under Andre Villas-Boas.
There was a variation on that idea in Tim Sherwood’s first Premier League game in charge at Southampton, with Eriksen dropping into a deeper-lying central midfield role alongside Mousa Dembele in a 4-4-2 formation, while Chadli replaced Erik Lamela on the right wing in the second half.
Since then, Eriksen has found himself out on the left of midfield, while Chadli had a spell as the No10, and now the Belgian has dropped back to play alongside Paulinho in the 4-4-2 system.
Eriksen’s move away from the middle has been a source of consternation for a lot of supporters, particularly in games where Spurs have struggled to break down their opponents.
The Dane is clearly the most creative player in the squad so it makes sense for him to be at the heart of the action, rather than being deployed out wide.
That tactical decision has strengthened the theory that Sherwood is out of his depth and that he doesn’t know how to utilise his best resources.
However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to insist that Eriksen has been marginalised and his influence weakened.
The 22-year-old scored twice against Southampton on March 23 and set up the first two goals against Sunderland last week before adding the third himself.
Add Saturday’s injury-time equaliser against West Brom and Eriksen has contributed four goals and three assists in his last four league games – not bad for someone who is supposedly being played in the wrong place.
Meanwhile, Chadli’s latest role is a new development – another trial in a season full of them – and it doesn’t look like a masterstroke at the moment.
Admittedly, Spurs have been struggling with injuries recently but Nabil Bentaleb, who was previously such a favourite under Sherwood, has been on the bench against Sunderland and West Brom so the head coach has had other options.
Chadli is neat and tidy, but the first 31 minutes against Albion on Saturday added weight to the view that Spurs are generally too open in the centre and, when Dembele is fit, he offers everything that Chadli can in that central position, and more.
Nonetheless, Sherwood feels he has found a formula which gets the best out of both signings.
Speaking last Friday, the head coach stated: “I said when I first came in that the new signings need time to settle, and they need to find a system that suits them.
“Certainly in recent weeks we’ve found a system that suits Chadli in central midfield. We’ve also found a system that suits Eriksen.
“It’s not only about him [Eriksen] playing in that position, it’s about getting the football to him and trying to find ways of getting him on the ball, because when he is on it he does affect it – so those two for sure have been very good.
“They are best suited to those positions. Chadli is a big boy, very powerful and he runs away from people. He turns on the back foot and drives away.
“He has got more power than Christian, who’s is a little bit more Plymouth to be honest – Ar-guile.”
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