Dier takes cen­tre stage for Tot­ten­ham

Young­ster could be in line for Euro 2016 place af­ter re­ward­ing Po­chet­tino’s faith

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - TOTAL FOOTBALL | BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE -

When Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino started lib­er­ally cast­ing aside cen­tral mid­field­ers in the sum­mer, you won­dered who on earth was go­ing to fill Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur’s mid­dle ground. The Brazil in­ter­na­tional Paulinho was dis­carded. Étienne Capoue got sold to Wat­ford. Lewis Holtby and Ben­jamin Stam­bouli were also shipped out.

Even at that point, though, I bet Eric Dier did not think he would be given the chance to form a key part of a Spurs side who look more sub­stan­tial with each pass­ing week.

A young player who had been spo­rad­i­cally used at right-back and cen­tre-half last term, who had never played in mid­field for any length of time, cer­tainly did not look favourite to nail down a place in this par­tic­u­lar area of the pitch.

Yet that has now hap­pened with ter­rific re­sults. Not only has Dier, 21, es­tab­lished him­self next to Dele Alli, he has, like Alli, re­cently won a place in the se­nior Eng­land squad. And judg­ing by the way he per­formed against France last Tues­day, Dier stands a fair chance of go­ing to the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship fi­nals next year.

There are not, af­ter all, many play­ers avail­able like him – de­fen­sive-minded sorts who can get about the pitch with great ef­fi­ciency, who are happy to con­fine them­selves to the un­spec­tac­u­lar busi­ness of cov­er­ing space, of pro­tect­ing the de­fence, of win­ning the ball and pass­ing it sim­ply.

From a club as­pect, he also fits the pro­file of a Po­chet­tino player – young, hun­gry, en­er­getic and self­less, the qual­i­ties that see Spurs sit­ting four points off the top af­ter eas­ily beat­ing West Ham United yes­ter­day.

“I’m com­fort­able in this po­si­tion,” he said af­ter run­ning Harry Kane close to win­ning the award for man of the match. He is also quite good in this po­si­tion, as proved sev­eral times this sea­son.

When I said that Dier knows when to keep it sim­ple, that does not mean he can­not show a more am­bi­tious streak.

One lovely pass to Alli here proved that he is ca­pa­ble of quickly spot­ting an op­por­tu­nity, with a sound tech­nique to back up that kind of ad­ven­ture.

Maybe his time at Sport­ing Lis­bon de­vel­oped that abil­ity. On their books from the age of eight hav­ing moved to Por­tu­gal with his fam­ily, Dier’s foot­ball ed­u­ca­tion dif­fers markedly from most English lads. In turn, his per­spec­tive on the game may be a lit­tle more rounded.

The up­shot is that his tem­per­a­ment and char­ac­ter are now help­ing to carry him along. Dier looks the part in this vi­brant Tot­ten­ham side, just as im­por­tant to the cause as Kane up ahead and Jan Ver­tonghen and Toby Alder­weireld, so ef­fec­tive just be­hind.

No won­der Po­chet­tino tied Dier up in Septem­ber to a new five-year con­tract. It is good sorts like this the man­ager wants in his dress­ing room, peo­ple who are will­ing to fol­low his strict code.

It all goes to show you never know in this game. It may well be true that Po­chet­tino tried and failed to re­cruit more mid­field­ers.

But when those play­ers failed to ar­rive, the Ar­gen­tine looked round to size up his op­tions. And like Alli, one of them has proved a very pleas­ing suc­cess.

Star­ring role: Eric Dier has emerged as a com­mand­ing cen­tral mid­fielder

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