April 14, 2016

Eric Dier is our playmaker

He might not yet be Xabi Alonso, but Eric Dier is developing impressive deep-lying playmaker skills to go alongside his existing defensive talents.

Dier’s rise this season would have been the ‘story of Spurs’ season’ in most other campaigns. But, much like how the Premier League has three or four huge stories going on at once (Leicester City, Chelsea, West Ham United, and Spurs), so has our own squad: Dele Alli taking to the Premier League and showing signs of becoming our next Galáctico; Harry Kane proving that he’s here to stay; Mousa Dembélé becoming the player many of us had convinced ourselves he’d never become; Toby Alderweireld playing like the Belgian Ledley King. I could go on.

The narrative of Dier’s transition to midfield has been written about a lot — from his previous run in midfield for Sporting Clube de Portugal, to the experiments in pre-season, to being thrown straight in on the opening day at Old Trafford. Initially he looked a little clunky and hindered by his frame — he picked up three yellow cards in his first four league games of the season — but he was soon breaking up play and distributing with refreshing simplicity. And whilst it was a well-kept secret amongst Spurs fans that Dier was a naturally brilliant crosser of the ball, his passing game has been spoken about less. But it is absolutely deserving of some recognition.

I tweeted this post-Liverpool match, once I’d watch the game for a second time; I’d had a beer or two the first time, and wanted to focus on the nuances with a clear head. Dier’s ambitious play-making caught my eye. These two attempted clipped passes between the left-back (Alberto Moreno) and left-sided centre-back (Mamadou Sakho) for Son Heung-min to run onto filled me with excitement about what’s to come once Son has acclimatised.

Dier to Son 1st half

Dier to Son 2nd half

These show that Dier has the requisite vision to pick out a run, the poise to be able to find space and get his body into the right shape, and the execution to play this type of pass with the perfect weight.

Typically, the deep-lying playmaker is a holding midfielder whose focus is on passing rather than tackling. I can’t help but come back to Jonathan Wilson description of Xabi Alonso in this article for The Guardian: “Xabi Alonso, although capable of making tackles, focused on keeping the ball moving, occasionally raking long passes out to the flanks to change the angle of attack like an old-style regista.” And, of course, it will depend on a number of factors as to what the key focus of the player is — does his team have the majority of possession? Are the team pressing high? Where will he be receiving the ball? In our case, the answers are: yes, yes, and often between the centre-backs. Dier is expected to do a bit of everything, and I am by no means trying to argue that he will be moving away from being a combative player to a ball-playing one; this is simply another string to his bow.

Dembélé is one of the world’s finest at retaining possession, but his use of the ball is generally fairly simplistic — he attempts lots of short, lateral passes, choosing to make ground by dribbling rather than by using forward passes. To compensate for this, Dier has been asked to play a slightly more expansive game; he attempts more than double the number of long passes (3.4) as  Dembélé (1.5). Indeed, after Kevin Wimmer (59.9) and Tom Carroll (59.2), Dier attempts more passes per 90 minutes (57.0) in the Premier League than anyone else in our squad.

In our system, Dier drops in between the centre-backs (or alongside them, in the right-back area, depending on the phase of play) and receives the ball. He steps into midfield and uses his teammates to create triangles. He moves the ball swiftly into the advanced full-backs, but also regularly fires forward passes into the feet of Kane, Alli, Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen. And, as the above clips show, he’s also willing to play the ball over the top of a defence.

The comparison of the Dier and Dembélé pass maps are intriguing.

Dier & Dembele pass maps vs Bournemouth

In the Bournemouth match, we can see how many relatively long passes Dier played to find the full-backs, especially Danny Rose. Dembélé also played a lot of passes to the left-back area, but they were mostly shorter passes, and he rarely played anything out to the opposite side of the pitch to which he was situated. Dier made plenty of attempted passes, some of which were into the box — in this instance, they all failed. But the intent was clearly there for him to be creating.

Dier & Dembele pass maps vs Liverpool

Against Liverpool, we can again see lots of expansive Dier passes – attempting to direct the ball into different areas, both across the pitch and the final third. Again, most of his more ambitious passes failed, but he did create a chance with a long pass into the box, and sometimes just the willingness to play a long pass can force a team to drop that bit deeper. Dembélé was typically economical with his passing, rarely giving the ball away, but also rarely attempting anything expansive, such is his role.

Dier & Dembele pass maps vs Man Utd

The United game was different. Dier only made 37 passes, Dembélé 44. United dominated possession, and the game was often broken up and quite stop-start. The passing of both players was much more restricted, and both had sub-80% pass completion rates, which is unusual — especially for the economical Dembélé.

It will be interesting to see how the skill sets of the two are put to use over the final few games, and whether he continues to show signs of being able to play a more traditional regista role.

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  • Rob C says:

    Lovely. Toby Alli Harry all great but Dier really has stabilized Spurs. And to think I wanted Toby as our DM before the season or it was going to be a busted year.

  • GERRYinHONGKONG says:

    Great win at the potters.
    One game a week gives us the preparation we need to demolish our opponents like the team under Nick.
    Kane…..golden boot, surely
    Ericksen……….immense vision and assists
    Alli……good reading of the games and knows where he ought to be to apply the finishing touches
    Lamela………got to play on the left where you can score or provide assists. Although your runs on the right could serve as decoys for teammates, you still have a duty to score when at times your teammates be below par.
    The rest of the lads…………….A cohesive team effort backing up the front four. The score would not have been 4-0 without your good work. Keep it up.

  • GERRYinHONGKONG says:

    The understanding among the starting XI against Stoke is a key factor in keeping a clean sheet and scoring 4 .

    As we shall be playing in the CL and thus not being able to have a full week’s rest and preparation for games, the off-season friendlies would be useful to try the many combinations possible by putting Trippier, Wimmer, Davies, Mason, Bentaleb, Carroll, Winks,CCV, Njie, Son, Chadli and Pritchard into slots, so that we could have enough players capable of continuing the high level of cohesiveness in the team both in the PL and the CL.

  • GERRYinHONGKONG says:

    hope the Thur. game takes its toll on both the arseNAL and wba come Sunday and Monday.

    Defoe and co could do themselves much good by getting 3 points from the arse game.
    Sigurdson and co could snatch 2 points , if not 3, from the foxes.

    We need to carry out the game plan after revising it after seeing what gaps are there in wba defence shown YESTERDAY evening.

    Toby, Rose, Kane and Alli must not get carried away by the PFA award this Sunday. Stay focused for the Mon game!

    COYS!

  • GERRYinHONGKONG says:

    Just as what I have said in earlier blogs, the players must use the summer to review all the games we played this season on video together to understand their teammates’ running off the ball.
    More timely passes into the space ahead of those runs will lead to earlier goals and the team could cruise in the second halves and reserve their energies for the mid-week games.

  • GERRYinHONGKONG says:

    Losses and draws at home this season suggest we aren’t good enough to take CL crown yet. Signings in summer will take 2 years to blend into the team.

    For 2016-17, We should settle with another go at a first PL champions title, if the team fulfills what I suggested in an earlier blog.

    As for CL, a good draw with Bayern or Barca in the same group means we only need to focus on the other 4 games in the group to qualify for the round of 16, thus being able at 2 more weekends to to play our best men to consolidate our position in the PL. (My game plan would be to play only half of our best XI for the away tie with the top seeded team in the group and the other half at the home leg .)

    We need to show we can capitalize on chances and turn them into goals in the next 3 games or we risk losing the runners-up spot!

    4 points in the next 2 games would put away a potentially nervous May 15 afternoon while 6 points from these 2 matches would take us excitedly waiting for favorable results on other pitches.

  • GERRYinHONGKONG says:

    We need to build a database (both scipt and videos)of the way the other 19 PL opponents play, something we obviously doesn’t have at the moment. If not , we would have preventeded Dawson to get a header. We would not have allowed Mahrez get that equalizer in the 1-1 draw. We probably would have used Trippier and Davies instead and avoided that Alli wild swing ……..

    This is more important to the team’s success next season than signing somebody(ies) who need(S) 2 years to blend into the team. The only player I could think of that might click immediately is Gareth Bale, but that is almost impossible.

  • GERRYinHONGKONG says:

    The sheer determination of both Pooh and Citeh to gamble on wins in Europe next week amazes me.
    If their gambles pay off, I’ll admire their managers.

    Poch should learn a lesson here for next season.
    Last December when we were already qualified for the knockout stage, he should have rested more regulars v Monaco because the result is insignificant and let the whole team focus on the Newcastle game ,which we lost 3 precious points.

    Play 8 reserves in the CO Cup and FA cup next season and keep the lineup should we progress to the next round.
    Play 5-6 reserves in the games against Bayern or Barca in the group stage if we were fortunate enough to draw one of them. The rested regulars could thus focus on the PL and the other 4 CL group games against lesser opponents.

  • GERRYinHONGKONG says:

    2-2 draw at Stamford bridge after a lead of 2-0.

    Some evil force is interfering with the team.

    So many Spurs players acted like they wanted to be sent off and suspended.

    Should we draw 2 more games, we won’t be runners-up.

  • GERRYinHONGKONG says:

    Spurs players are paid at the level of the high income category. Being at that level of the social stratum,it is reasonable for us to demand them to exercise good judgment as is expected of and equivalent to that social status.

    Yesterday I saw the unbelievable happened. It seemed , after going up 2-0, the team suddenly pressed the SELF-DESTRUCT button……..Rose charging into Willian, Dembele wiping Costa’s face, Dier’s rash sliding tackle, Lamela stomping on what?a hand?
    It was as if the players wanted Clattenburg to pull red and get themselves suspended for the season!

    The club should fine all those guilty of irresponsible foolishness. Fines heavy enough to make sure they don’t do anything silly again which could hinder our progress to glory next season and the ones after.

    I hope there are still players Poch could muster for a win over S’ton this Saturday .

    COYS

  • […] But Dembélé wasn’t the only midfielder to shine. First, Eric Dier. A storming year for this 22-year old stalwart. I cannot wait to see how he progresses next season; not only in terms of his defensive play, but his burgeoning ability on the ball. […]

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