FOX Soccer Exclusive
Eriksen, Ozil make quick impacts
Over the weekend, Andre Villas-Boas gave an interesting insight into the fiendishly difficult task of squad building. It is a tough balancing act: how to make sure you have enough high quality players to be competitive, but also keep everybody happy and involved when there will always be a group who are disappointed to be excluded from the team-sheet. “Healthy competition” is what Villas-Boas is searching for, and he is hopeful that his new squad is on the right track for a contented, motivated and successful squad.
Within that framework, though, there are always some players who have to be treated as special cases, those who are somehow above the “healthy competition” category, because they are so important to their team.
After a remarkably composed debut, Christian Eriksen looks like that kind of player. The moment he made his first move in a Tottenham shirt – brimming with skill, awareness and virtuoso confidence – there was a buzz in the crowd as if to acknowledge that a final piece of the jigsaw is in place. He may be young, he may be new, but he already looks like a main man in the making for Tottenham.
Spurs had been missing a creative spark this season until the 21-year-old Dane showed up. Eriksen wasted no time in demonstrating his ability to fill the crucial playmaker role with striking assurance.
Meanwhile, 250 miles north, Tottenham’s neighbors Arsenal were also struck at the sight of what their own new creative force could bring. They did not have to wait long for Europe’s most potent assists man to notch up his first in Arsenal colors. Mesut Ozil caught the eye with his beautiful movement and precision passing even though he had been sick the day before the game. People were left wondering what he can do when he is well, and has had more than a day in the company of his new teammates.
When Arsenal and Tottenham grappled for supremacy at the North London derby a couple of weeks ago, Ozil was still a Real Madrid player and Eriksen belonged to Ajax. In the space of one deadline day signing, both clubs look to have imported a significant central cog around which their team can purr.
What impressed so much on their debuts was the immediacy of their impact. Straight away both players were highly influential, and carried the kind of presence that makes teammates feel extra confident to have on their side. When you have a player wearing your shirt that oozes enough technique to know they always want the ball, they are always able to keep it and use it, and can bear the responsibility to make things happen, it is fantastically reassuring.
When teammates sound giddy with excitement about a new signing, clubs get the benefit of a psychological lift as well as a boost to their game-plan. Aaron Ramsey could not contain his enthusiasm about Ozil: “He is an unbelievable talent and hopefully that is just the start of many things to come from him. The timing of the pass is everything. He has a wonder of a left foot and the way he strokes the ball means that the passes he delivers always seem to be perfectly weighted right into players' strides.”
Roberto Soldado at Tottenham is similarly enthused about teaming up with Eriksen. “He is a brilliant player,” reckons the Spanish striker. “It's incredible that he has got up to this level already in his first game in English football. He makes everything look easy. He's a player that can support us in everything we do. He can offer us a lot of passes to everyone who plays in attack for Spurs. He is a player who is capable of improving all of us."
Early league tables are notoriously reckless guides for how a season is going to progress, but seeing Arsenal and Tottenham occupying to top two places in the Premier League emphasizes that with a good start, the north London clubs at least have something to build on.
And with Ozil and Eriksen, they have imported top-billing stars talented enough to build a team around.