Eric Dier 22 Defender/Midfielder Tottenham Hotspur England
Growing up in Portugal may have given him the touch, but English football has given him the bite. Where once he looked a little lightweight for a long-term Premier League central defender, he now looks an absolute natural at DM for a club side who rely on him as both first line of defence and the start of many attacks. Heavy duties for a 22-year old who has only been playing in midfield consistently for the last year, but he seems to be taking to it like a duck to the wet stuff.
2016 has been…
…a learning curve handled very nicely to date.
The free-kick for England against Russia this summer provided a well deserved cherry on top of an expertly iced cake. Dier’s progress as a midfielder had been coming along nicely, an international goal at a huge tournament sealed it. Despite England’s failings as the competition went on Dier came through as one of the few players to have earned praise for his performances and the maturity beyond his tender experience was exceptional.
Club-wise he was coming off the back of an excellent season and as Spurs ran Leicester close for the title, which is still not at all weird to say thanks to the rest of 2016’s ‘surprises’, he was a huge part of Poch’s tactical plan as both shield and springboard. The thinking that a slightly above average defender can handle a DM role is just not true (hello to you, Phil Jones), this was a player who worked hard, listened and is now England’s first choice in the position. Heady progress admittedly not matched by any silverware, but either way this has been perhaps the single defining twelve months of his career.
Keep learning, keep playing, understand there will be mistakes along the way, and the sky’s the limit. Nearly every aspect of his game could be criticised but to do so is to ignore the progress. A position change this early in a career can be suicidal, here the synergy of player and manager has made it as smooth as you dare wish for.
It also means he is versatile and as such, internationally he’ll be in the squad barring anything absolutely disastrous for the next ten years. He could do with telling Jordan Henderson to stay out of the space he likes to work in but that will come with a bit more authority.
Eric Dier’s progress may not be as spectacular as others on this list. He may not score as many goals, or beat as many men, or earn the assists despite being the pass before the pass (if you get what we mean), but his learning curve has been steeper than nearly anyone else’s and he finishes the year as a vital club player, an England regular and very much a midfielder. There is not a Premier League club who wouldn’t want him in their squad and at some point Spurs may make an obscene profit on the £4m they paid for him but that’s a way off. The ultimate keep on keeping on player in this list. There will be the odd bad game, he will give the ball away now and then, he will frustrate but he’ll keep learning. When he peaks in 4 to 5 years time we’ve got the price of a pint on him being brilliant.
B Emerged from the summer unscathed and ends the year as a specialist in his position, not sure Poch could have asked for more
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