Mauricio Pochettino wanted Christian Eriksen’s future resolved before Sunday. “Tomorrow, we are going to know if Christian is going to be with us or not. That’s the most important thing,” he said the day before.
The fact the midfielder was thrown back into the starting line-up for the north London derby suggests this particular transfer saga has, for now, been paused. This felt like a message to Real Madrid, and any other suitors, that Eriksen will be a Tottenham player after Monday’s European transfer deadline.
“We need to wait,” he said to Sky Sports after the game against Arsenal. “But that [performance] showed that Christian Eriksen was alright.” That was an understatement.
If there have been any doubts about the commitment of Eriksen, who has admitted he wants a new challenge, then they were dispelled emphatically in a breathless 2-2 draw at Emirates Stadium. Eriksen offered everything Pochettino could have asked for.
Would he do enough out of possession, or cruise through the match in a bubble of uncertainty? He ran 12.22 kilometres, more than any other player on the pitch.
Would fitness be a concern after comparatively little football of late? Only two team-mates clocked a higher average speed than his 7.25km per hour in the north London sunshine.
If his head has been turned, would he offer enough of that championed ‘grit’ that only seems to become a prerequisite for a footballer against a team’s bitter rivals? Only David Luiz and Harry Winks made more tackles, and he was booked for bringing down Granit Xhaka for good measure.
Most pertinently of all, would he still have enough quality to bring life to a Spurs attack that were shut out by Newcastle United a week ago? He managed six crosses, two chances created, four shots on target out of four attempted – and one easy tap-in to break the deadlock.
3 – Since Mauricio Pochettino took charge ahead of the 2014-15 season, Spurs have only won three of their 27 Premier League away games against fellow “big six” opponents (W3 D9 L15). Shortfall. pic.twitter.com/X5z0Tin6SZ
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 1, 2019
It was not Eriksen’s fault Spurs surrendered a commanding 2-0 lead and ended up largely hanging on for a point. It was not he who let Alexandre Lacazette dance through the defence to score, or who failed to track Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s run for the equaliser. When Moussa Sissoko ballooned a shot over the bar at the end of a promising break deep into injury time, Eriksen had out-sprinted everyone else in white to take up a far better position. It wasn’t his fault he was ignored.
In many ways, this game epitomised the development of Pochettino’s team: from also-rans, to Premier League and European elite, to somewhere oddly in between. As clinical, controlled and committed as they were in the first half, the meek submission to the building Arsenal pressure in the second was much more like Spurs of 2019 than of the past few years.
After all, they are now winless at the Emirates in the league since November 2010, have managed just nine victories from 21 top-flight games in 2019 and haven’t beaten anyone away in English football since January.
Pochettino was adamant rumours he could step down after the Arsenal game were complete nonsense, but it’s hard to ignore the growing sense of staleness creeping in. More and more, that Champions League final in June has the feeling of a ceiling reached, rather than another step taken on a path to greater heights.
With Eriksen in the team, in this form, with this focus, there could be new life breathed into Spurs. We’ll know for certain come Tuesday morning whether he is, for a few more months at least, a Tottenham player. It could have a huge say on their immediate future.