How Pochettino turned Tottenham into title contenders... Part 1: The Dier masterstroke

ERIC DIER BOXING

With Tottenham two points off top, HITC Sport looks at their transformation in a five-part series...

Tottenham Hotspur's rise to second in the Premier League has been no coincidence. It's not been down to one or two lucky factors and it's not come about through reckless spending.

What Mauricio Pochettino has done with the north London side is oversee a gradual transition. That transition has become a transformation - and there have been several key factors involved.

Good management needs to run through a club from top to bottom. There, Pochettino has received ample support from the likes of recruiter Paul Mitchell and chairman Daniel Levy (Franco Baldini's exit has also helped...).

But part 1 of our series looks at where the Argentine himself has succeeded by looking inward.

Indeed, one of the most notable changes in Tottenham this season has been the role played by a certain Eric Dier. The versatile 22-year-old is now an England international - and not even in his most natural position.

As has been well documented, Pochettino moved Dier into holding midfield this term after a campaign floating between centre-back and right-back. And it's proven to be quite the masterstroke.

 2015-16 Premier League TacklesInterceptionsAccurate PassesChances CreatedAppearancesMinutes Played
Mousa Dembélé 62 44 870 18 21 1,564
Kyle Walker 46 62 697 17 22 1,972
Eric Dier 40 59 1,141 9 25 2,202
Dele Alli 39 50 618 32 24 1,751
Jan Vertonghen 30 53 1,046 5 23 2,055
Toby Alderweireld 18 44 1,137 5 26 2,340

As Opta stats show, Dier is in the top three for tackles won at Spurs this season and in the top two for interceptions. He has also landed more passes than any other Tottenham player in the league but has clearly stayed back more than his team-mates - creating less than 10 chances so far this term.

The 22-year-old occasionally played in holding midfield before coming to Tottenham but was widely regarded as a defender first and foremost.

During his debut campaign at White Hart Lane, he was a good one. Dier showed plenty of promise at centre-back and a lot of maturity when coping with a less-familiar role at right-back.

But that wasn't enough to keep him in the Spurs XI as a weekly regular. At the same time, he looked talented enough to warrant a place every week. Pochettino recognised that and now we have Eric Dier: the midfielder.

"I like to think that I have proved a lot of people, who were doubting it, wrong," Dier told the Guardian before his first England call-up.

"Because I know that a lot of people did. People will say: ‘Ah, I know nothing about this kind of stuff.’ Some people try to play it cool but you are going to know. But it didn’t bother me. I looked at it like I had nothing to lose. Now it’s just a question of maintaining it."

Maintain it he has - and how.

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