Eric Dier and Ryan Mason scooped the Sky Sports and Tottenham Fans’ Man Of The Match awards respectively for their performances in the win at Sunderland on Sunday, so does this indicate that Spurs may have finally found a balanced midfield partnership?
Mason was deployed as a no.10 in the absence of Christian Eriksen in the 0-0 draw at home to Everton, and his performance could and should at least have earned him a goal and an assist.
While the Dane will rightly be reinstated in his favoured position on his return from injury, the security blanket provided by Dier will allow Mason to have more of an effect in the final third, despite being deployed in a deeper role.
Nabil Bentaleb’s injury will see him sidelined for around four weeks, and while last season that may understandably have caused some degree of panic, the recent success of the midfield partnership of Dier and Mason has allowed the news to pass largely under the radar.
At the Stadium of Light on Sunday we saw two great individual performances from Mason and Dier, as opposed to a midfield masterclass.
Mason registered more attempts on goal than any player on the pitch, something we rarely saw from the 24-year-old last season.
The England international also made more passes in the attacking third than any player on either side, with 20 of his 29 efforts successful.
There is no question that Dier’s presence in front of the back four allowed Mason greater freedom to move forward than when he plays alongside fellow Spurs academy graduatae Nabil Bentaleb.
Dier’s defensive display was superb, clocking up the highest number of tackles by any player with eight, aswell as registering the highest number of blocks, also eight.
If Dier continues on the upwards trajectory he is currently on, then Bentaleb has his work cut out if he is to win back his place in the starting XI.
Without comparing anybody to the late, great Luka Modric (he may not clinically be dead, but to many a Spurs fan, he’s as good as), the partnership of Mason and Dier is reminiscent to that of the Croatian and Scott Parker during Harry Redknapp’s reign.
The presence of Parker in front of the defence allowed Modric to play the game where he’s most effective, safe in the knowledge that the former England captain (yes, that happened), would gladly take a yellow card for the team, or spin his way out of trouble like a dog chasing its own tail, as he often did.
Tottenham’s goal at the Stadium of Light was a product of Pochettino’s passing philosophy being implemented, aswell as superb ingenuity on Ryan Mason’s part.
It is integral to have a player like Mason in the middle of the park if Eric Dier is to continue as a central defensive midfielder.
Mason has a sense of willingness and directness that a number of players at the club, who may be more technically gifted than him, severely lack, and that was made no clearer than in the build-up and the climax of the goal on Sunday.