Neil Humphreys: Spurs must hang on to Eriksen
The elegant playmaker, who has been linked to moves away from Tottenham, is a class act
As Tottenham Hotspur fuss over their manager, they should also keep an eye on their magician and hope that he doesn't do a disappearing act.
Christian Eriksen goes about his work so modestly that he often wins games without anyone really noticing.
|TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR||LEICESTER CITY|
Spurs' 3-1 victory against Leicester City last night was no exception. Both sides missed star names. Both sides missed gilt-edged opportunities. But only one side had the unassuming Eriksen.
At 26, the great Dane is fast approaching his peak and the England-centric media do the midfielder a disservice when they focus on Harry Kane and Dele Alli.
Yes, the English duo may depart if Mauricio Pochettino cannot be convinced to stay.
But Eriksen might not hang around either, particularly when he auditions for wealthier clubs with such an assured dominance.
A terrific assist and a spectacular goal won a tense fixture and kept Tottenham in touch with the title race.
More importantly, Eriksen's display was a timely reminder of his value as Kane recovers from injury.
In many respects, the Wembley contest was really a tale of two absent strikers.
One couldn't be helped. The other was a self-inflicted wound.
Tottenham were without Kane, but Claude Puel seems determined to get himself sacked.
He benched Jamie Vardy. The Leicester manager muttered something about giving Demarai Gray a chance, but the Englishman looked like a knife at a gun fight. He lacked Vardy's firepower (and didn't touch the ball in Spurs' box until the 50th minute).
As a result, an end-to-end affair created numerous chances, but they were squandered.
If anything, the Foxes conjured the better opportunities, constantly getting behind Spurs' static back four, but Vardy was on the bench cracking jokes with his fellow subs, leaving Leicester with no punch line on the pitch.
Still, Tottenham had an extra touch of class in midfield, which was enough to break the deadlock in the 33rd minute.
Eriksen's fine cross found the head of the diving Davinson Sanchez, who nodded in his first Spurs goal.
Pochettino's men were lucky to be ahead, but the Argentinian may feel that his positive approach engineered his own fortune.
With Alli and Eric Dier out injured, Pochettino picked 18-year-old Oliver Skipp for only his second start and the young midfielder didn't disappoint alongside Harry Winks.
The combined age of Tottenham's central midfield was 41, only six years older than Leicester veteran defender Wes Morgan, who was on the bench.
Pochettino loves throwing the kids in at the deep end, sharing Manchester United's staunch belief in the academy production line.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to sustain his initial success at Old Trafford because Pochettino and the Red Devils really do look like a match made in heaven.
Puel, on the other hand, seems to borrow his tactics from the Cirque du Soleil. They're colourful, clownish and generally good for a laugh.
After admitting defeat with the Gray experiment, Puel brought on Vardy on the hour mark to take a penalty that had been awarded, rather softly, after James Maddison had taken a tumble.
The spot-kick was Vardy's first touch.
Guess what happened? Yes, the strike was too close to Hugo Lloris, who pushed the ball around the post.
Vardy looked shell-shocked. Puel looked like Coco the Clown.
Three minutes later, Leicester looked beaten.
Eriksen, the most elegant footballer on show by some distance, drifted inside like a PE teacher skipping past the Primary 1s and waved his wand of a right foot towards goal.
The 20m shot seemed effortless, but the finish was unerring. Right now, Tottenham would be lost without him.
Nevertheless, Leicester weren't ready to surrender. A fine build-up culminated in Vardy sliding the ball home in the 76th minute to make amends for his earlier penalty miss.
But Son Heung Min settled the contest in stoppage time, breaking through on the counter-attack and slotting in the decisive third.
Spurs deserved their victory, but only just. Eriksen's quality proved to be the difference.