The Eric Dier Redemption
Much like his convoluted journey into English football—Portugal to North London via Merseyside—Eric Dier’s path to becoming what appears to be a highly-capable centre-back in Conte’s 3-4-2-1 formation has been anything but straightforward.
Having arrived from Sporting Lisbon as a centre-back; a young, cultured ball-playing defender whose continental footballing education would suit Mauricio Pochettino’s own blueprint for a new-look Spurs side, he spent the next few seasons doing a pretty decent impression of a defensive midfielder. A little rough around the edges, perhaps, but with a core skill set that could be nurtured and cultivated. He possessed those often overlooked virtues such as being able to control a football and being able to pass a football in a straight line. Witchcraft, in other words.
Soon, though, there was a worry amongst fans that Dier’s versatility might become rather more of a hindrance than an attribute. Much like Phil Jones at United who landed from Blackburn Rovers as a formidable and promising centre-half, but was quickly wrenched in all directions until his brain shutdown and reduced him to a walking facial expression.
Dier comes full circle
This season, however, under Conte, Eric Dier appears to have found his calling in a back three. Fitter than ever, in his own words, and looking every ounce the polished defender that should’ve seen him earn a place in the England squad for the upcoming Nations League fixtures. When you identify his qualities, it seems so obvious now: like a visit to casino france. A long-limbed, imposing frame, positionally intelligent; and the vendor of a robust slide tackle, just the right side of industrial. Just like his haircut, there’s bo bloody messing around.
Dier’s cementing into the first team does highlight the importance of coaching above large-scale spending—an axiom perhaps often over-egged by Arsène Wenger during his time at Arsenal. Sometimes vomiting cash over a problem isn’t always the most worthwhile remedy, even if it seems the most immediately effectual. There was a huge outcry last summer for Spurs to address their frailties at the back, to add to the signing of Christian Romero. But with some focused training and what sounds like a brutal fitness regime, Dier has emerged as the chosen one. It was Earth all along. It was Eric Dier all along.