News that Tottenham defender Eric Dier has penned another long-term contract so soon after joining the club is sure to be welcomed by most Lilywhites, but his conversion to a holding midfielder might not be viewed quite as favourably.
He arrived at Spurs as a centre-half from Sporting Lisbon, but was often shifted out to the right-back slot during his debut season at White Hart Lane before his latest incarnation as a defensive midfielder to start 2015/16.
One school of thought would suggest this versatility is exactly the reason Mauricio Pochettino and co value Dier’s services so highly.
There is certainly merit to be found in utility players who can fulfil several different roles, though the more cynical view, especially where Spurs are concerned at present, is that they have failed to lock down a quality defensive midfielder and are simply making do.
The recent transfer window laid bare Pochettino’s desires to sign a specialist in the role, though moves to sign his former Southampton charge Victor Wanyama came to nothing.
Although Pochettino has Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason as industrious centre mids to choose from, he clearly doesn’t feel either is disciplined enough to stick exclusively to protecting the back four, while Mousa Dembele is also more attack minded.
In only conceding a goal per game in their first four Premier League matches, compared to just north of 1.3 per game overall last season, there is certainly some evidence to vindicate Pochettino’s decision to entrust Dier with screening duties.
A goal against Sunderland is a bonus also. Rightly criticised for being too porous last season – no side let in more goals in the top half – Spurs are generally looking more solid it must be said.
However, credit also lies with the man who has effectively displaced Dier from his best position.
Having reacquainted himself with his former Ajax teammate, Toby Alderweireld’s burgeoning partnership with Jan Vertonghen in the heart of defence is a highly promising development at the Lane, unless injuries intervene.
If they do, as was the case with Alderweireld last season on loan at Saints, Dier is probably still first-choice understudy unless summer signing Kevin Wimmer is trusted to step into the breach.
Dier is tenacious and strong at 6ft 4”, though he lacks refinement in possession and is not the quickest.
He is probably going to do an efficient enough job in the role he’s been given, but looking longer term this is an area of Pochettino’s team that needs properly addressing.
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