Eric Dier Awaits Tottenham’s Judgment

Jul 29, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Tottenham Hotspur defender Eric Dier (15) plays the ball during the first half of the 2015 MLS All Star Game against the MLS All Stars at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 29, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Tottenham Hotspur defender Eric Dier (15) plays the ball during the first half of the 2015 MLS All Star Game against the MLS All Stars at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

Eric Dier did more than punch his timesheet against Everton. Knowing full well that the imminent closing of the transfer window means that Saturday’s game could be his last audition for a permanent part in Tottenham’s starting XI, Dier put on a show. He was dominant in defensive midfield, pushing Everton’s narrow attack back away from his centre-backs while also being the pivot of Tottenham’s transition back into attack.

Everton were limited to a mere eight shots, only three of which were on target. That’s a testament to how well the entire Tottenham defense played. That’s the least shots the team has conceded to the opposition in four games so far this season. For a club that has struggled to keep their opponent’s shots down- Tottenam’s 12.9 shots conceded per game is one of the standout differences between them and the rest of the top seven last term – that’s a notable improvement.

RELATED: Matchday: Tottenham v Everton

Two of those three shots on target came from outside the box, suggesting that Everton were pushed back from the centre-back duo and thus away the most dangerous areas on the pitch. Part of that came down to Everton manager Roberto Martínez’s insistence on playing especially narrow. Ross Barkley and Arouna Koné attempted to find some joy in the area Dier and Nabil Bentaleb occupied but failed.

Without any service, Romelu Lukaku was forced to regularly drop deep to retrieve the ball, meaning that Everton’s three most dangerous attacking players were kept bottled up between Tottenham’s defensive lines.

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If any of those three were to have followed Tom Cleverely’s lead and played just a little wider, it might have been a harder offense to defend against. As it stood though, Dier was gifted a game he knew how to play well. He hassled Everton’s attempts to muscle out of midfield, slowing the build up to such a speed that the centre-back pair of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld were kept mostly to mop up duties.

Several of his efforts were less than graceful – a tackle against Tom Cleverely late in the first half led to the Everton midfielder’s removal from the game – but it was the kind of defensive game Tottenham needed. So often last term the midfield pair of Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb were too concerned about pressing in attack to cover that space in front of defense that Dier has patrolled so well this season, a neglect that led to many shots conceded and thus more than a few goals.

Bentaleb’s presence alongside Dier in midfield suggested that Tottenham had learned from those mistakes last season. They were to each complicate Everton’s build up play, though it was likely due to be left to Bentaleb to push forward when Tottenham had possession. By the time the whistle blew however, it was clear how well that gameplan had unfolded.



, Dier recorded 57 passes at a completion rate of 98 percent. That is more passes and a higher success rate than anyone else in Tottenham’s starting lineup. Were it not for James McCarthy’s 61 passes, Dier’s overall passing game would have been the best on the pitch.


Passing in and of itself is not especially notable. Dier recorded largely similar numbers in the previous Saturday’s game against Leicester City. His passes in that game though were mostly simple ones, often out wide to Kyle Walker as the fullback attempted to press forward.

That lack of directness could mostly be attributed to Tottenham’s inability to get out of their own half against Leicester’s expertly layered defensive formation though. Against Everton his passing game varied widely. His link with Walker was still evident, but he also directed passes into the midfield or, on occasion, attempted to switch flanks with longballs forward to Nacer Chadli and Danny Rose running forward along the left touchline.

Bentaleb could not make the same claims about either side of his game, defensive or offensive. He lacked Dier’s presence and drive, becoming largely invisible for long swaths of the game. Indeed, his most notable accomplishment in the game might have been


giving away the ball clumsily at crucial moments.

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Dier put on arguably his best show yet in Tottenham’s colors Saturday. He proved that he is not merely a versatile bench option –

as some authors claimed mere weeks ago

– and should indeed feature in Mauricio Pochettino’s plans going forward.

And yet he might not. If Dier had turned in these performances in games that ended as Tottenham wins, then it might be different. He might justifiably been the club’s starter for the rest of the season. After three points from four matches, though, that seems unlikely.

Daniel Levy and Pochettino no doubt both feel they need to invest still more to make this a winning team. As strong as Dier might be now, he has not yet been truly tested. He’s not even played a game alone in his defensive midfield role; either Ryan Mason or Bentaleb has always been next to him, if not putting on a better show than certainly supporting Dier’s efforts.

Dier, in short, is not Nemanja Matić. He is far from being the monolith Tottenham need in midfield, the type of player who can single-handedly own the area in front of his centre-backs, closing down players before they become outright threats. There’s no doubting his motivation, his strength, his versatility.

The fact is that there are better – or at least more experienced – players out there. They might cost significantly more than Dier and they might not be fully indoctrinated in Pochettino’s methods but the club needs results now. That means they unfortunately don’t have the time to let Dier mature into the role.

Next: A Tottenham Transfer Crystal Ball

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