Christian Eriksen: a modern Rafael van der Vaart?

Superb with either foot, excellent set piece delivery, an eye for goal, a free kick expert, an assist machine. That’s everything you want from an attacking midfielder and Spurs have got one. However it’s not the first time Spurs have benefited from signing a player who was brought up “the Ajax way”.

Rafa Van der Vaart was only at Tottenham for two years and played 63 games, but his impact was long lasting and whenever the team is in a state of flux, you can guarantee that this image pops up on Twitter.

Van der Vaart played the game off the cuff, with a swagger. It was the Tottenham way. To dare is to do. Brought up on the traditions of Ajax of being comfortable on the ball in any position, he would bring others into play with an astute pass or a deft flick. For natural footballers he was one of the greatest Spurs have ever had. Van der Vaart scored 24 goals in his short period at Spurs, an excellent return for a midfielder, but also key was his number of assists. The understanding he had with Peter Crouch was crucial to our Champions League form. 

Similarities can be seen in Christian Eriksen’s play. Pick the ball up in a tight spot in midfield, a quick drop of the shoulder and he is away. Always on the front foot, always probing. A football intelligence garnered from the Ajax school. Natural ability is a pre-requisite but the ability to be comfortable on the football is schooled from a young age. Eriksen joined Ajax in 2008, and by the time he was 18 he was already a regular in the side. Ajax had given him the exposure at an early age, he was another off the conveyor belt of talent at the Dutch giants. After winning the league three seasons on the trot at Ajax, Eriksen joined Spurs for £11m. A steal. Yes, Eriksen only had one year left on his contract, but Spurs had a bargain. See Baldini did do something right!

Eriksen had a slow start in England under the risk free football of Andre Villas-Boas and managed to keep his composure under the harum-scarum football of Tim Sherwood. Under Pochettino he has really flourished, question marks were raised as to whether Eriksen would be able to cope with the pressing nature of Pochettino’s tactics, but that is doing a dis-service to the player. From his time at Ajax, Eriksen has football intelligence, he has been coached in the right manner. Tactically astute and expert game management. 

Eriksen’s free kick taking around the penalty area currently has no peers in the Premier League. Natural talent yes, but a willingness to practice and practice reaps benefits. Again, the Ajax way. Last time Spurs had a dead ball expert as good as Eriksen, step forward Mr Van der Vaart. That partnership between Van der Vaart and Crouch, the ability to find a defence splitting pass so the centre forward can benefit…just look at Harry Kane’s 2nd goal against Bournemouth. A run made in the knowledge that Eriksen would find him with the pass. It was made to look simple, but it was a superb goal.

Question marks were raised in the analysis of the game against Bournemouth about Eriksen’s starting position, tucked in from the left. However that is irrelevant.  What is irrelevant is Eriksen’s ability to be equally effective in any forward thinking position. He never shirks responsibility and is always looking to attack. In the back of his mind undoubtedly is, “If I can play a positive pass, the attacker maybe fouled. I can score from that free kick.”

Christian Eriksen’s positivity and set piece prowess will be key to Tottenham’s success over this season and future years, and he is already proving a worthy successor to his fellow Ajax graduate Rafael Van der Vaart.

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