Tottenham Hotspur's Eric Dier is on the brink of becoming one of those underrated players who is in fact overrated. There’s a real risk of it happening unless he’s able to add consistency to his game.
But consistency only comes with familiarity. There needs to be anchor for Dier, a position he's able to call home, if he's to ever fulfill his undoubted potential.
However, the upheaval in his playing career is not entirely his fault. He’s a victim of his own versatility. In the three seasons he's been plying his trade at White Hart Lane he's played a variety of positions. Just as he seems to settle somewhere he's moved to play elsewhere. On one hand it helps him become a more rounded player but on the other it stops him from developing in that particular position.
Dier has had a meteoritic rise since his Spurs debut in August 2014. He scored the winner on his debut in the 1-0 away win over West Ham United before following that up a week later win a goal in the 4-0 home win over Queens Park Rangers. He spent the majority of the season playing alongside Jan Vertonghen at the heart of Mauricio Pochettino's defence.
However, the following season saw the arrival of Toby Alderweireld. The Belgian partnered his compatriot Vertonghen in defence and this pushed Dier into a defensive midfield role. Here he thrived. Per 90 minutes he was averaging 2.2 tackles and 1.8 interceptions alongside Mousa Dembélé as the pair were key cogs in the formidable defensive unit.
He was aggressive in his approach and this seemed to get the best out of the player. He was proactive and no doubt encouraged to add a bit of risk to his game in the sense he would gamble on a tackle he had no right to win.
Eric Dier at Euro 2016:
316 minutes played
83% tackles won
89% pass accuracy
1 goal pic.twitter.com/VilJhtPfyG
— Spurs Stat Man (@SpursStatMan) June 29, 2016
He was a standout performer in a midfield role in what turned out to be a disappointing Euro 2016 campaign for England. He scored a memorable free-kick to add that string to his bow. He was quickly becoming an all-action midfielder and Bayern Munich were reportedly keen on the former Sporting Lisbon youngster.
Pochettino acted swiftly to secure Victor Wanyama from Southampton in the summer and this demoted Dier from his starting position in centre-midfield. So far this term the 23-year-old has been deployed at centre-back in a two and right centre-back in a three. Despite Spurs yet again having an impressive defensive record there are question marks over Dier in that role.
The uncertainty in his game is evident at times. His positioning can be erratic, he's caught out in no man's land and there are occasions in which he's still acting as a defensive midfielder. He's taking risks a centre-back shouldn't be taking as well as committing fouls a centre-back shouldn't be making.
Which isn't good news for his Argentine manager who, upon signing Dier, believed his future was as a defender and not a midfielder.
“Dier is a versatile and young player and we feel he has a lot of potential. We have followed him for some time and we think he can develop into a top defender,”
Eric Dier's Questionable Defending
In the draw with Gent, Dier played a huge role in the Gent equaliser. It was highlighted in a piece by Football Whispers' very own Andrew Gibney. Dier isn't in line with his centre-back partner and is initially too deep before then attempting to push up and play the offside but he get's his timings all wrong.
Gent make the most of this and score that all important second away goal. It's not the first time this season that Dier has been partially to blame for a goal and it won't be the last.
In the defeat to Liverpool Dier was at fault for the home side's second goal. He superbly brings the ball down and this puts him in a position to either pass the ball to Wanyama or play it into the space on the Spurs left. Both are options so long as he's quick on the ball.
However, he dawdles, gets the ball caught under his feet and Sadio Mané dispossesses him before Liverpool race through and eventually put the ball into the back of the net.
This time against CSKA Moscow in the Champions League. In the first picture the ball is in the air and Dier should be breaking his neck to get goal side of the away side's number ten, Alan Dzagoev, in anticipation for the ball being flicked onto into the vacant space.
For some reason though he's slow to react, he's not caught on his heels but he's not as switched on to the danger as you would expect your centre-back to be. The ball is knocked down, the Russian side are in on goal and they make the most of the opportunity to go 1-0 up on the night.
Taking nothing away from the perfectly executed strike by Pedro, there's absolutely no excuse for the former Barcelona man having that much time and space free on the Spurs area. Granted, it's a smart turn but he's under no pressure whatsoever from Dier as he curls the ball past Hugo Lloris.
Why is the Spurs defender standing off him when he could be tighter and showing him onto his weaker side and forcing him to go wide?
It's similar to the Gent incident. Spurs are against Manchester City in the picture above and Dier yet again has issues with his defensive line. At first he's goal side of the attacker but then holds his position in an attempt to play the offside which he gets completely wrong. He knows he's messed up and he's forced to pull the City man down. On another day he could have been sent off.
Eric Dier playing RCB today but getting into such advanced areas and playing very, very well. pic.twitter.com/w9ampSp6Ho
— Chris Miller (@WindyCOYS) March 5, 2017
Stats, like those above, may imply he's performing in his defensive role but it's only after watching him you note there are some clear issues with him at centre-back. If Pochettino and the player can iron them out then they may have a player on their hands but as things stand it's a risk playing him in defence. He's a weak link in what's otherwise a strong defensive unit.