After seven years in a Tottenham shirt, Christian Eriksen has signed for Inter Milan.
The Dane joined Spurs at the start of the 2013/14 season from Ajax in a deal worth just £11m. He had a good first season but really took off under Mauricio Pochettino starting in the summer of 2014. Eriksen became a key cog in Pochettino’s side, with his devastating creative talents allowing attackers like Harry Kane and Dele Alli to hit the heights of super stardom.
Eriksen rarely attracts attention and praise for himself, even when performing spectacular things on the field. Goalscorers obviously overshadowed him, but even in terms of creators he was never adorned as the best. It was always other, more illustrious names that stole the headlines whilst Eriksen just carried on battling away, being massively unappreciated.
But was he unappreciated? We had a look into Opta’s stats from the last seven years of Premier League football, since the date Eriksen debuted (September 24, 2019) to try and find out. Specifically we’ve collated the top five players in six key categories to see where, if at all, Eriksen ranks amongst them.
Was Christian Eriksen the dominant Premier League creator during his time in England? Or was he simply a midfielder who couldn’t beat the first man at corners? Let’s find out….
A “chance” is defined by Opta as any pass that ends in a shot on goal. What bodes well for Eriksen here is that he plays alongside shot-happy players like Kane and Heung-min Son. Still, the Dane proved to be a constant source of chances, putting his team-mates into space where they could have a crack at goal. Eriksen created more chances than anyone else in the Premier League since his debut with 571; an enormous figure, and 20 more than second-placed Mesut Ozil.
Big chances created
Simply creating chances isn’t enough, because after all the shot that comes at the end of a pass may be a low quality one. Thus to measure the sharpness of a player’s creativity, we have Opta’s ‘big chance’ metric, which is defined as a chance that is reasonably expected to result in a goal; either because the shooter is close to goal, has a clear path to goal, and is under little pressure.
To this end Eriksen places second since his debut; with a massive 73 big chances created. Only Kevin de Bruyne is above him with 84, and unlike the Belgian, the Dane didn’t have the luxury of playing in the most dominant team in the league for two and a half seasons.
Chances, even big chances, are only truly useful to a team if they are actually scored. Obviously this isn’t always down to just the creator, but it is a useful measure of both their creative output and their understanding with their team-mates. Unsurprisingly, Eriksen tops this list with 62 assists, just two ahead of De Bruyne. Eriksen’s excellent set-piece ability is the difference here as the Dane proved to a wizard from a dead ball during his spell in north London.
But is Eriksen a pure creator? With 62 assists he tops everyone, but what about if we factor goals into the equation? The Dane’s 51 goals gives him a direct goal involvement (i.e. goals and assists combined) of 113. That doesn’t crack the top five, but given that said five is four goalscorers and a wing-wizard who got to take his team’s penalties (Eden Hazard has scored eight penalties since the start of the 2016/17 season alone) you have to respect Eriksen’s phenomenal achievements in goalscoring.
Direct free-kick goals
Part of Eriksen’s scoring repertoire, just like his creative one, is down to his quality from free-kicks. Here the Dane again reigns supreme, with eight goals scored directly from free-kicks. Eriksen’s quality when the ball is stationary means that any team that fouls Spurs around the box did so with the knowledge that the Dane could immediately punish them.
Goals from outside the box
Eriksen’s menace around the box is not limited to threading through-balls for team-mates, or banging in free-kicks, sometimes he could just thwack it in himself. Looking at goals from outside the box, which obviously includes free-kicks, Eriksen is out in front yet again.
Since his debut he let fly and found the net from outside the area a grand total of 23 times; that’s at least five more than any other player during that time span and is perhaps the final example that Eriksen was indeed one of the most incredible and unappreciated forces during his seven year stay in the Premier League. He leaves, like Pochettino, with a whimper – but also like his former coach he leaves behind a massive hole that Spurs will find it difficult to fill.