Season review: The growth of Eric Dier

Going from third choice centre-half to Tottenham and England’s number one defensive midfielder, it’s been a year of evolution and growth for Eric Dier. One of the first through the door under Mauricio Pochettino’s regime, Dier was signed as a young defensive prospect from Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon.

This unorthodox upbringing as an English bull being refined technically on the continent by a European mainstay with a reputation of producing excellence have proven the foundations for Dier to evolve into the player he has become today.

After endearing himself to the Tottenham faithful in his first year with his versatility, commitment and knack of popping up with a dramatic goal or two, Dier found himself with a new burden of responsibility upon his shoulders when he arrived for pre-season to prepare for 2015/16.

Tottenham had tried and failed to sign a top defensive midfielder. And rather than settle for someone below par to fill in a gap, Pochettino saw in Eric Dier the qualities to move him forward into a more advanced role. Dier had some experience of this role in Lisbon but had not been utilised there for some time. Whilst early trials during pre-season saw an understandable amount of awkwardness in Dier’s performance, come the start of the season Dier looked a player transformed.

With only a couple of months to practice his new role, Dier’s immense natural talent for the game shone through. Eric’s ability to marry perfect timing with an aggressive edge in his tackles have become more and more apparent in open play, regularly killing off prospective attacks before our opponents had time to advance.

Dier’s excellence in this role also saw the true birth of Maurcio Pochettino’s favoured system. With Eric being the final piece he needed, Poch was able to implement a flexible 4-2-3-1 formation, that was both hyper aggressive in the press and fluid in its movement in transition.

His intrinsic understanding of the game has proven the main reason for Dier being the crux for this establishment of formation – being a natural centre half, Dier has a higher understanding of the needs of his defence than many of the other defensive midfielders in the game.

A big part of Pochettino’s system is the width the fullbacks provide, and the four lads tasked with this, Rose, Davies, Walker and Trippier came at it with gusto when called upon. Our fullbacks were regularly found marauding up their flanks to join the attacks. In most systems the caveat is that if one goes the other stays.

Thanks to Dier, both fullbacks were often afforded the opportunity to simultaneously roam forward. This was due to the fact that Dier was constantly aware of the movements of his defence. When his fullbacks went, he stayed – becoming a third defender. This solidity provided by Dier’s understanding of the nuances of his role allowed us to explore new dimensions in attack.

Dier’s ability to mesh with our defence or midfield then allowed for further experiment with our formation. At times in games during the past year Poch has deployed a 3-5-2 formation with Dier in the middle of the three. This was most notable against a Watford side that was utilising a two pronged attack, and this tactical switch eventually led to victory.

As the season developed, we also began to see Dier take on the mantle of playmaker. His diagonals from deep to the flanks were an asset in making the most out of the width the fullbacks and his positioning accommodated.

This level of performance lead to Dier being widely considered one of the best players in the league in his position, whilst establishing himself as England’s number one defensive midfielder

All at just 22 years of age. From make-shift to main-stay, expect Dier to go from strength to strength this coming year and for many more.

Written by Josh Smith

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