Will Eriksen develop Modric skill

Tottenham missed a playmaker in the Luka Modric mould last season, the nearest we had was Christian Eriksen who was played out wide on the left.

Tottenham missed a playmaker in the Luka Modric mold last season, the nearest we had was Christian Eriksen who was played out wide.  The difference between Eriksen and Modric is you don't know what Modric is going to do but you are more likely to know what Eriksen is going to do. If you play the ball with both the inside and outside of your foot then you have different otions and therefore the opponent has more to worry about. That was the beauty of Modric.  If you look at a player like Tom Carroll trying to make his way in the game, every pass is telegraphed. He turns his body and passes with his instep. He has limited his choices with his body shape and the opponent knows exactly what his is going to do. It's like a car driver indicating to tell other motorist what he or she is going to do next. That is easy to deal with.  Tim Sherwood calls these “side-foot Charlies, wearing out the instep of their boots" but also concedes they have their place in a team. You can't fill your team with them though or the whole team produces predictable readable football.  Can Eriksen deveop instep and outstep passing with both feet, at 22 I would think he could. he uses it everyone does but it's the level that you use it and where. Where it makes no difference to the opposition and is for show it's meaningless, where it hurts the opposition is the real test.  The second area neding work is out wide. Too many times our wide men have to drop deep to get the ball and when they receive it they are in an area where they can't do any damage, they have two men on them and have to simply pass the ball backwards. The wide men, if we are to use wide men, need to be high up the field.  That involves having a defensive midfielder dropping between the two split centre-backs when required to allow the full-backs to attack. If you can't pass through the middle and we certainly couldn't at the start of the season under Andre Villas-Boas, then you have to attack wide and get round the back. That involves through balls from midfield splitting the defensive line or dragging the defence one way and quickly switching play.  Italy showed England how to attack a weakness down a flank. They identified Leighton Baines as a weak defender and consistently caused England trouble all night through that route.  Tim Sherwood made a revealing observation that echoed the thoughts I discussed in two recent articles, one about youth academies and one about our youth football.  "I look at someone like Raheem Sterling and it is clear to me he is a street player. I worked in development for a long time at Spurs and I always felt that in England we try to coach young boys in tactics for the sake of winning a game. We need to coach technique. Let them play. They can start to learn the tactical side between 16 and 18. Let them develop the flair in their game."  Abroad they are more interested in developing the player than the result, over here we are more interested in the result than developing the player to his maximum potential. You only have to look at the intake of boys from each school year and when their birthday is. If you are born at the wrong time of year you are less developed going into the school year and deemed inferior to the bigger, slightly older boys. Statistics show that of boys selected by clubs only 14% are born in May and June. Iniesta and Messi were born in May and June respectively!  Sherwood was probably the best head of player development we have had feels that youth football is simply too rigid to develop players to their potential.  "Some days I watch development games and the teams are so rigid and drilled that not one player stands out. The attacking players are shackled in the system."  That was exactly the problem we were having under AVB, the striker received no service and no player who enjoys playing the game is going to be happy not receiving the ball, which in turn makes them unhappy at a club and then they don't produce their best. It's a vicious circle.  "I watch games where the wingers have been coached to help cover back with defensive work. It means that when they get the ball they don’t have the energy to take their full-back on. If I have to make a decision on a boy’s contract I need to know whether he can go past the full-back, cross the ball, score goals. Making him track back might win a few games for the Under-18s but the kid could end up working in Sainsbury’s."  Having watched someone like Bernard or Oscar playing for Brazil, they are both playing wide and tacking on their men. Tottenham gives the ball to someone like Aaron Lennon where he is facing the wrong way or stuck on the touchline with nowhere to go so he has to pass backwards. He is excellent defensively but frustrates that he doesn't create more.  Sherwood reveals why he played him so much was because as well as attacking he was good defensively.  "I always felt at Spurs that Aaron Lennon was one of our best defenders. The reason I played him so much was that I knew the work he did going backwards would allow the likes of Christian Eriksen and Emmanuel Adebayor freedom."  Gareth Bale developed when he was freed of defensive duties and asked to play further forward to make the most of his skill, you have to commend AVB for that.


The difference between Eriksen and Modric is you don't know what Modric is going to do but you are more likely to know what Eriksen is going to do. If you play the ball with both the inside and outside of your foot then you have different options and therefore the opponent has more to worry about. That was the beauty of Modric.

If you look at a player like Tom Carroll trying to make his way in the game, every pass is telegraphed. He turns his body and passes with his instep, it's as if he is trying to make every pas look pretty. He limits his choices with his body shape and the opponent knows what his is going to do. It's like a car driver indicating to tell other motorist what he or she is going to do next. That is easier to deal with.

Tim Sherwood calls these “side-foot Charlies, wearing out the instep of their boots" but also says they have their place in a team. However you can't fill your team with them though or the whole team produces predictable readable football, you have to have that inside and outside double footed footballer.

Can Eriksen develop this double passing with both both feet, at 22 I would think he could. He uses it, everyone does but it's the level that you use it and where. Where it makes no difference to the opposition and is for show, it's meaningless, where it hurts the opposition is the real test, can you do it there.

A second area needing work is out wide. Too many times our wide men have to drop deep to get the ball and when they receive it they are in an area where they can't do any damage, they have two men on them and have to simply pass the ball backwards. The wide men, if we are to use wide men, need to be high up the field.

That involves having a defensive midfielder dropping between the two split centre-backs when required to allow the full-backs to attack. If you can't pass through the middle and we certainly couldn't at the start of the season under Andre Villas-Boas, then you have to attack wide and get round the back. That involves through balls from midfield splitting the defensive line or dragging the defence one way and quickly switching play.

Italy showed England how to attack a weakness down a flank. They identified Leighton Baines as a weak defender and consistently caused England trouble all night through that route.

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Tim Sherwood made a revealing observation that echoed the thoughts I discussed in two recent articles, one about youth academies and one about our youth football.

"I look at someone like Raheem Sterling and it is clear to me he is a street player. I worked in development for a long time at Spurs and I always felt that in England we try to coach young boys in tactics for the sake of winning a game. We need to coach technique. Let them play. They can start to learn the tactical side between 16 and 18. Let them develop the flair in their game."

Abroad they are more interested in developing the player more than the result, over here we are more interested in the result than developing the player to his maximum potential. You only have to look at the intake of boys from each school year and when their birthday is.

If you are born at the wrong time of year you are less developed going into the school year and deemed inferior to the bigger, slightly older boys. Statistics show that of boys selected by clubs only 14% are born in May and June. Iniesta and Messi were born in May and June respectively!

Sherwood was probably the best head of player development we have had and he feels that youth football inhibits player development.

"Some days I watch development games and the teams are so rigid and drilled that not one player stands out. The attacking players are shackled in the system."

That was exactly the problem we were having under AVB, the striker received no service and no player who enjoys playing the game is going to be happy not receiving the ball, which in turn makes them unhappy at a club and then they don't produce their best. It's a vicious circle.

"I watch games where the wingers have been coached to help cover back with defensive work. It means that when they get the ball they don’t have the energy to take their full-back on. If I have to make a decision on a boy’s contract I need to know whether he can go past the full-back, cross the ball, score goals. Making him track back might win a few games for the Under-18s but the kid could end up working in Sainsbury’s."

Having watched someone like Bernard or Oscar playing for Brazil, they are both playing wide and taking on their man. Tottenham gives the ball to someone like Aaron Lennon where he is facing the wrong way or stuck on the touchline with nowhere to go so he has to pass backwards. He is excellent defensively but frustrates that he doesn't create more.

Sherwood reveals why he played him so much was because as well as attacking he was good defensively and unseen by supporters freed others to attack.

"I always felt at Spurs that Aaron Lennon was one of our best defenders. The reason I played him so much was that I knew the work he did going backwards would allow the likes of Christian Eriksen and Emmanuel Adebayor freedom."

Gareth Bale developed when he was freed of defensive duties and asked to play further forward to make the most of his skill, you have to commend AVB for that.

There does seem to be a recognition that we have to get out best attackers, attacking and not defending, that will mean others doing a bit of the donkey work and the like of Lennon perhaps getting the abuse he perhaps doesn't always deserve.


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