Christian Eriksen 21 Midfielder Tottenham Hotspur Denmark
2013 has been...
Almost perfect. Almost.
The Christian Eriksen show was rapidly tilting toward full throttle as we released The 100 in December last year. Already a vital player for Ajax during two title winning Eredivisie campaigns, the 2012-13 season became a high water mark for the Danish midfielder.
As Ajax triumphed in the league again, their success was, as always, a team effort, but one player above all stood out as the medals were awarded. Superlatives for Eriksen's displays were wide ranging and endorsements well deserved, but he was more than just a standout player. 2013-14 was the year that Christian Eriksen became the hub, the focal point and the heartbeat of Ajax.
The young international seems to have been around forever, but is still only 21. To have achieved so much so soon is a resounding affirmation of talent, but such is his ability optimism remains that Denmark has produced a potential world-class performer that will deliver silverware to his employers for much of the next decade.
In his last season at Ajax, Eriksen scored and created for others with confident abandon. A cursory glance at his performance data for the season highlights a player that reached double figures for both goals and assists, but that's only part of the story. During matches Eriksen was constantly involved, not just in terms of minutes spent on the pitch, but the amount of time he was responsible for doing something with the ball. With an accuracy reading touching 90% for the full season, amongst their peers, only Spanish golden boy lsco came anywhere near matching the volume of successful passes that Eriksen delivered, and even then he was well, well short of the Dane.
A potent warhead delivering corners and free kicks, dictating play from deep positions, prompting and provoking in the final third, whether from the flanks or centrally, Christian Eriksen was everywhere and produced, on average, between four and five goalscoring chances in every match. With their Danish Trequartista in such formidable nick, it was little surprise that Ajax took the crown.
With a move abroad widely acknowledged as inevitable, interest in the midfielder was predictably intense during the European summer, with suitors from across the continent keen to discuss terms with Ajax's star man. Initial reports suggested that he would make for Germany, with Borussia Dortmund ready to invest in a replacement for Mario Götze. But it was the eventual sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid that allowed Tottenham Hotspur to acquire Eriksen as part of a raft of signings tasked to replace the Welsh winger.
With, not unreasonable, comparisons to Laudrup, Laudrup, Elkjær and Simonsen keenly offered by impressed endorsees, Eriksen rocked up at White Hart Lane at the end of August ready to impress and progress. So far, that step has looked more exaggerated than many expected, but perhaps illustrates the scale of the void in class between the Eredivisie and the Premier League. The space and time that Eriksen utilised so effectively in the Netherlands was no longer as freely available in England and if progress is to be made it will require a speedy education.
It would be tremendously unfair to suggest that Christian Eriksen has struggled since arriving in England but the last few months have been a reminder that this is a player still learning the ropes. Dropping into a Tottenham side with a number of other new players from different countries was always going to prove difficult and with expectation high, things haven't been easy.
As we write, Eriksen is currently injured after suffering a knock whilst on international duty. An initial diagnosis hinted at a lengthy stint on the sidelines, but it looks, at this stage at least, as if the injury is only a short-term issue. In terms of timing, from Eriksen's perspective at least, it may have been a blessing in disguise as Tottenham were destroyed by a fluid Manchester City side at the weekend. Right now, it's difficult to imagine Eriksen's presence stemming the rampaging Citizens.
And that links to our concern for 2014. Pressure has now begun to build on Andre Villas-Boas at Spurs as his expensively assembled post Bale outfit continues to stall. The defeat at The Etihad comes on the back of recent home reverses against United's West Ham and Newcastle; two sides that Spurs would expect to be well ahead of. The most pressing concern for the Spurs manager has been a lack of goals. While not a striker, Eriksen will be expected to contribute an individual tally as well as setting up others; the primary reasons he was purchased in the first place. With an increasingly desperate need to gain results, there is a risk that expectation could be difficult for Eriksen to deal with, or that he could become singled out as a scapegoat when things go wrong. For such a young player, this cannot be a good thing.
All that could be irrelevant though, Spurs certainly have the personnel, they just don't seem able to fuse as a coherent unit right now but things could change quickly. With a jaunt to Brazil no longer in the offing, Christian Eriksen has only one significant challenge ahead in 2014 and that is to become as destructive for Tottenham as he was for Ajax.
Some observers will point to a player that may be a little lightweight to succeed in England, but we know what this boy can do and we're backing him to succeed.
"Look, this lad is a serious player, he showed that at Ajax. If he can get fully up to speed soon we could easily be looking at the best midfielder currently playing in England." - Jeff Livingstone, IBWM
"After years of being good, Eriksen turned into a great midfielder in 2013. Can become Spurs' playmaker for years to come." - Michiel Jongsma, Benefoot.
"Of the league-high 138 chances that Christian Eriksen created in the 2012/13 Eredivisie, 85 were from open play." - Opta
B A nailed on 'A' has been tempered slightly but we shouldn't lose sight of a superb year from a sublime player