Last season, Tottenham lacked that cutting edge in midfield. They were missing a strong workhorse who could do the dirty work. A player to win headers, make a foul and break up play. This missing link was seen to be the main reason Mauricio Pochettino's side couldn't quite break into the top four.
All summer, Spurs fans were screaming out for a new central defensive midfielder. It seemed for all the world that Victor Wanyama was destined to be on his way to White Hart Lane.
But come the first day of the season, and Spurs are away at Old Trafford with young Eric Dier starting in central midfield for the first time in a Lily-white shirt. Pochettino looked mad at the time, but his decision has since been comfortably justified.
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Pochettino’s backing has transformed Dier from a capable centre-back into a mobile and adept centre midfielder with the composure of a seasoned pro.
Dier, unusually for an Englishman, started his career at Sporting Lisbon and was snapped up by the north London outfit for a mere £4 million. Many believe his development in Portugal gave him the necessary footballing skills to transfer from defence to midfield so effortlessly.
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Despite gathering numerous plaudits among the Tottenham faithful, Dier is yet to have the whole country convinced - some are even dismayed with the idea of Dier starting for England at the European Championships this summer.
But with a lack of other defensive midfield options, Dier - although inexperienced at international level - must be considered the most reliable and obvious option in Roy Hodgson’s depleted arsenal of midfielders.
With his league form often going unnoticed, the 22-year-old has been quietly going about his business all season, picking up four goals along the way in 43 appearances.
The midfielder has also won more aerial duels than any other centre midfielder in the Premier League this season (66). His ability to seamlessly shift back into defence if required gives him an added flexibility that no else in the squad can offer.
With Danny Rose and Kyle Walker bombing down the flanks on Tottenham attacks, Dier simply reverts into defence to create a back three. This provides sufficient cover for the full backs and allows players such as Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela to go out and express themselves.
Interestingly, Rose and Walker are staking a huge claim to be England’s full-backs in the summer as both are having an impressive campaign. This defensive trio is ready made to be transferred to the England set up - an idea that Roy Hodgson shouldn’t dismiss easily.
Defending set pieces is also made easier by Dier’s presence. Due to his experience as a centre-back, he is well equipped in the air and again, form a defensive three.
Spurs boast the best goal difference and defensive record in the Premier League, and it is no coincidence that Dier has started virtually every one of those games.
Dier's commitment is there for all to see. Many believe - and on this season's evidence, it's understandable - that Dier will be wearing the captain's armband before too long.
If, and it’s a big if, Tottenham do go on to win the Premier League, the spotlight will be on Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Hugo Lloris. But Eric Dier’s contribution to Tottenham’s season has been immeasurable - he is Spurs’ unsung hero.
He wasn't involved in the heavy defeat to Dortmund in the Europa League on Thursday, as - such is his importance to the side these days - Pochettino made the controversial decision to rest him. Ultimately the 3-0 scoreline shows how much he was missed.
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