Christian Eriksen doesn’t quite have the answer to the question, but he does offer a distinctive response. The 22-year-old has been asked how exactly Tottenham Hotspur can disrupt Liverpool’s devastating attack today.
“We just need to score more goals than them maybe,” he replies.
That would be some feat if it does end up a free-for-all, given the figures underpinning Liverpool’s impressive season. Brendan Rodgers’s side have scored 84 goals in 31 games, a ratio which puts them just behind Spurs’ own record-breaking 1960-61 team.
To do it, Tottenham are going to need Eriksen on form. That, at least, looks likely. The Danish playmaker is finally starting to display his full abilities, providing four goals and two assists in his previous four starts. Eriksen was central to last week’s 3-2 comeback against Southampton, setting up the only Tottenham goal he didn’t score himself.
The Dane hopes it can transform the end of the team’s season, but he has certainly been one of its positives. For all the discussion about the seven summer signings, Eriksen is arguably the only one to have worked out.
That fits with his sense of single- mindedness as much as the thoughts about stopping Liverpool. One of Eriksen’s representatives describes him as “focused”, with no little understatement. This was a 16-year-old who turned down Barcelona and Chelsea to go to Ajax. It was there he first came across one of today’s more intimidating opponents. So what was Luis Suarez like at that point?
“At training for me at that time, I just looked at myself, more with my own game,” Eriksen says.
Eriksen states he has not stayed in touch with Suarez, but that’s not to say he doesn’t have positive words for him. The Uruguayan will likely get his PFA Player Of The Year vote.
“He plays his own style,” Eriksen says. “If he’s on a run he does whatever he wants. I think he has improved. At Ajax he was that good as well but, of course, you come to a new league, and he’s done even better.”
As an Ajax coach, Dennis Bergkamp particularly praised Suarez’s individuality, and also tried to breed that mindset into the likes of Eriksen. The Spurs youngster may well be a better player because of an Arsenal legend, since Bergkamp was one person Eriksen certainly did watch.
“You would see him in training and he had some skills that normally some guy shouldn’t have,” Eriksen explains. “You didn’t talk to him that much. I think you just learn, you look at him and see what he does and try to think about it and do it in your own way.” That is precisely the kind of reaction Bergkamp desired, given that he has complained about young players being overly manufactured. “I don’t know if I’m one of those guys!” Eriksen protests. “But no, when I came, I tried to adapt to a new place and new style of play.”
He has had to do that twice at Tottenham, which puts his initial decision to join the London club in a different context. Despite heavy interest from Paris Saint-Germain, Eriksen picked Spurs because of their approach.
“I spoke to Jan [Vertonghen] a few times before I came. I saw a lot of games last season. I liked the type of game they played. I could see myself on the team with all the players.”
Eriksen couldn’t have seen so many ructions, however, with Andre Villas-Boas sacked. He does, though, scotch a few perceptions about Tim Sherwood.
“His methods are maybe different but, as a person, he wants you to be 100 per cent in training, and it was the same at Ajax. If you make a mistake, you would hear it. That’s a good thing. But the way we play, I think it’s more English, more direct instead of ball possession, so that’s different from AVB.
“Though they still want the same things, to keep the ball and create chances.”
Eriksen is now doing that in abundance, and he puts it down to gradual adjustment. Today, Spurs are going to have to very quickly adjust to a superior team’s attack – something they have struggled with, after six defeats out of seven against the top four.
“Everybody here wants to prove we’re not that bad,” Eriksen asserts. “We have some big losses against the bigger clubs. We know if we want to go any further or any closer to the top, we have to win. It’s still a big gap [to the top four].
“Of course, we will be realistic. At this point, just look one game at a time. The whole League is so close right now... if you lose one game you’re feeling down, if you win you’re up, so I think we just take one game at a time and then see where we are after Sunday.”
They also need to prove a point to Liverpool. December’s 5-0 defeat at White Hart Lane cost Villas-Boas his job.
“Everybody wants a nice cold revenge,” Eriksen says. That’s certainly a distinctive response.
Liverpool v Tottenham is live on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 4pmReuse content