Assessing Eric Dier's impact in Tottenham's midfield

Due partly to an exodus of central midfielders and partly to a lack of match fitness on Ryan Mason's behalf, Eric Dier has started Tottenham's first two games of the season in midfield, with opinion split on his performances.

Dier's presence in midfield in the opening game of the season at Old Trafford appeared to have a hugely negative effect on Nabil Bentaleb's game. With Dier alongside him instead of Mason, the Algerian didn't always have the option for a forward pass, forcing him to either go backwards, or, as in the build-up to United's goal, misplace the ball all together.

This resulted in Pochettino's decision to leave him out of Saturday's game at home to Stoke in favour of Mason, the first time Bentaleb has been absent from the starting line-up of a league game since his participation in the Africa Cup of Nations in January.

With Dier in place of Mason at Old Trafford, the lack of directness in the Spurs midfield was a clear issue. The 21-year-old's tally of 12 passes to Toby Alderweireld was his highest pass combination, and by some distance.

In stark contrast, when Mason was introduced in the second half, his highest pass combination was to Christian Eriksen. Of the England international's 19 passes, 14 came in the opposition half, with just five of Dier's 43 passes coming outside of his own half.

A week later though, in the 2-2 home draw with Stoke, Dier appeared far more assured in his distribution than in the defeat at United.

The attacking manner in which the team approached the game against the Potters, somewhat predictably, had a positive impact on Dier's performance in midfield.

Aswell as netting the opening goal of the game and scoring Tottenham's first goal of the season for the second successive year, Dier created two chances, the joint highest of any Spurs player with Christian Eriksen.

The England Under-21 international also made 10 passes in the attacking third, eight of which were successful, and though his highest pass combination was again to Alderweireld, his second highest tally of seven was to the marauding Kyle Walker, five of which were forward passes.

Despite an improved performance against Stoke, if Dier is to challenge Bentaleb or Mason for a regular spot, a lot of work still needs to be done on the training ground, as, in his current form, the 21-year-old still, understandably, looks like a defender playing in midfield.