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If Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is to be believed, Christian Eriksen will not have minded being snubbed at St. James' Park on Sunday.

The quietly sublime Eriksen was comfortably the best player on the pitch in Spurs' 2-0 win at Newcastle but the man-of-the-match award went to debutant Kyle Walker-Peters instead.

It is not the first time Eriksen's brilliance has been overlooked, and the Dane's lack of accolades prompted Pochettino to say last season: “He is a player that does not need too much feedback from the fans, the media, the people outside. I like him a lot because he does not need to be recognised.”

Supporters often howl or crow that one of their players is underrated but, in the case of Eriksen, Spurs fans may actually have a point.

Last season, from January onwards, he was probably the club's most important player and he deserved to be named as supporters' player of the year – even if the accolade really did mean little to him. Eriksen was, however, omitted from the PFA nominations, while teammates Harry Kane and Dele Alli were both shortlisted, suggesting even fellow professionals do not fully appreciate Eriksen.

For casual observers, it is easy to overlook the former Ajax midfielder. Kane and Alli are superstars who score the bulk of Tottenham's goals and even Eriksen's midfield partners Mousa Dembélé and Victor Wanyama – both gifted, physical players – are, at a glance, more eye-catching.

Occasionally Eriksen's quality is blindingly obvious – as in April's FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea, when he assisted Kane and Alli with two brilliant crosses or, ironically, on Sunday, when he created both goals – but often his contribution goes unnoticed.

He arrived in England as a No.10 in the same week as Mesut Özil, and facing comparisons with Arsenal's record-signing, but his game has gradually changed under Pochettino, to the point where a more accurate comparison would be Luka Modrić.

He is able to control tempo and keep Tottenham ticking from deep, just as the Croatian once did, and the frequency with which he creates goals is startling. Since the start of the 2015/16 season, Eriksen has assisted 29 Premier League goals – more than any other player. When he is not the creator, he more often than not assists the assister.

Eriksen often appears to be an outlier in Pochettino's intensely physical Tottenham team, a player who is more likely to bottle a tackle than bully an opponent off the ball. But, along with Alli, he routinely covers more ground than anyone else in the XI, more than over 13km per match, and what he lacks in stature he makes up in an ability to drag his opponents across the pitch without touching them.

“I've always been a player on the move,” Eriksen said last year. “It's not because I like running. I like getting the ball. If you are smart enough, you don't need to run.”

On top of all that, Eriksen very rarely gets injured, and he is fit enough to play three times in a week, which is another factor preventing true assessment of his worth to Tottenham. It is probably fair to say that he is the player Pochettino would least like to lose long-term.

The Dane's biggest problem is a relatively simple one, however. For the last three seasons, he has consistently failed to be consistent. Last year, his sublime form from Christmas followed a quiet start to the season – admittedly in common with many of his Tottenham teammates – while in 2015-16 he faded in the run-in after an excellent start.

As good as Eriksen has been, his critics argue that he simply cannot maintain his form over the course of a campaign and, as a result, it has sometimes felt like Eriksen is trapped at Tottenham, too good for Spurs at his best but simply not consistent enough to follow Modrić to a bigger club. 

Questioned about Eriksen's inconsistency, Pochettino had previously suggested that he is still learning. But in January, the manager called for improvement. “We are very happy but, it is true, always in football it is never enough and he can improve. We are here to push him to improve every day and achieve a different level,” Pochettino said, who called for Eriksen to “step-up a level”.

Eriksen responded but this is season for him to truly step-up. As a 25-year-old, who has been playing top-level club and international football since he was a teenager, he has no excuses, particularly given that he has now spent two seasons playing alongside Alli and Kane.

His telepathy with Kane is such that no two players combined more regularly for goals in last year's Premier League. He does not even have to worry about defensive responsibilities much any more, since Tottenham's switch to 3-4-2-1 liberated him further.

Eriksen finished last season with eight league goals and 15 assists and if he can maintain Sunday's form over the course of the campaign he will significantly improve that tally. If he does, he may finally begin to earn the recognition and awards that he apparently does not crave.


Premier League