Sunday 18 August 2019

John Giles: Eriksen can shine but lacks one important quality needed to trouble Ireland for the full 90 minutes

Christian Eriksen, right
Christian Eriksen, right

John Giles

If Martin O’Neill can put his finger on where Christian Eriksen is and what he is doing when he ‘goes missing’ in a game, he can go a long way to removing the threat of Denmark’s most creative player.

Going missing has different meanings and interpretations and none of them good but in a player like Eriksen, I don’t think it’s about lack of effort or moral courage.

He goes missing because he doesn’t know where to be to influence the game for the full 90 minutes and never gets on the ball enough.

People’s eyes are naturally drawn to the ball and if a player is not on it or near it, he will seem invisible.

Eriksen can be devastating in bursts and people are often puzzled by a player like that. If he can do it once, why can’t he repeat it?

A manager needs to know that all his players have the positional sense to understand where they should be and in Eriksen’s case, I think this quality is lacking.

If you’re Mauricio Pochettino, and Eriksen is the best you have, you have to indulge the fact that he either doesn’t know how to position himself consistently in the right place to have the maximum impact or won’t be told.

Positional play can be coached but I see plenty of evidence these days that some managers are as blind to individual failings as the players are so I can’t make a judgement on which profile best suits Eriksen.

James McCarthy is a similar case because I have seen him do the kind of work which tells me he does see the game but all too often, he takes a blinkered view.

Compare both players to Wes Hoolahan or Luka Modric and the influence their way of playing has on players around them.

Hoolahan is drawn to the ball and it to him. He instinctively looks for space and finds it by being on the move all the time. Modric is even better at it.

This creates movement all around them and forces the pace. That’s what you should be doing – dictating how the game is played.

I don’t doubt that Eriksen’s match statistics would show him putting in a shift but where was the ball while he was clocking up miles?

You can be certain that the yards Hoolahan runs are with or very close to the ball.

To deal with Eriksen, O’Neill could man-mark him, which would be the logical thing to do, but that might grant him too much respect.

Gareth Bale was hyped-up to huge proportions before Ireland played Wales in Dublin last year and he “went missing”. In other words, why worry about something that might or might not happen.

If Eriksen lights up for 90 minutes, it would be a first and would mean a ‘backs to the wall’ job in Copenhagen anyway. If, as is more likely, he ghosts in and out of the game, Ireland can cope with that.

Keep an eye on him sure, as you would plan for any danger man, but I would be surprised if we see an Irish shirt stuck to Eriksen in the Parken Stadium on Saturday.

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