Should Christian Eriksen choose the Devils over the Bees?

Jainil Shah
By Jainil Shah
13 Min Read

According to the reports of highly reliable journalist David Ornstein, Christian Eriksen is likely to end up at Manchester United this transfer window. With Spurs pulling out of the race in re-signing the midfielder, the 30-year-old now has the dilemma of options of either staying back with the Bees at London or move to Manchester for a fresh start. The deals said to be offered by both clubs are fair and respectable, with Manchester United potentially offering a financially powerful deal.

The situation now for the Dane is a Head-or-Heart situation where he has to decide between joining back his countryman Thomas Frank and a place where he got his second chance after that horrible incident at the EUROs or be part of the under-constructing Manchester United and work under the tutelage of Erik ten Hag.

The news off early flashed that Eriksen preferred staying in London. The reports stated the reasons being his family settled in London who did not prefer to relocate yet again, compile with his relation with the Danish manager and half a dozen Danish players in that Brentford squad. This move would be understandable with him having a highly successful spell at the London Community Stadium and being the heartbeat of that Bees midfield.

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WAIT, LET’S LOOK INTO THE IMPACT HE HAD AT BRENTFORD:

Before signing Eriksen, Brentford were struggling to cope up with the first tier ball and had a win ratio of bare 21% having six wins in 28 games that clearly showcased the underlying hurdles that Brentford faced on the offence, especially with the creation from half-spaces for the front two. Their game clearly indicated the missing piece in the eleven was a solid attack-minded central midfielder who pushes the game forward and most importantly, a set-piece taker who would deliver to a number of massive bodies in the box. Before Eriksen, their best scoring player, Ivan Toney had to drop back to the midfield to play as a bounce-off man where he would hold on to the ball and wait for the sides to make runs (much like what Romelu Lukaku used to do under Conte during his time at Inter) making Bryan Mbuemo the only attacking threat in the box. With Mbuemo’s lack of output, it forced Thomas Frank to bring in a playmaker to give Toney much required freedom to take up the forward spaces on possession.

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The maestro’s addition in January had surged up Brentford’s win ratio to 70% with seven wins in ten games pulling out Brentford from the relegation battle at the start of March itself.  The ability of Eriksen to find those set of player on the wing and spot those runs from the distance was the biggest trait directly contributing to the goal scoring opportunities for Thomas Frank’s men. With Eriksen in the XI, Frank was able to mould his tactics where they would switch to a 4-5-1 formation during attack making Toney the man upfront to be on the end of these plays. This helped Toney get more involved in the attack and take up those scoring opportunities more often that denied him when he played as a target man or a shadow striker. Thomas Frank would not want to lose someone whose mere presence changed the game for them and majorly changed the course of their season. Hunting for a replacement with Christian Eriksen’s caliber and impact would be a hard mountain to climb.

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TEN HAG, A FRIENDLY SAVIOUR

After coming back from heart shock he suffered at the Euros last June, the Danish midfielder had to part ways with Inter following the insertion of an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) which was not permitted in Serie A. Here, Ten Hag came in to give the former Ajax playmaker a chance to train with the Ajax Squad during his recovery period. Ten Hag did have a close look on the dedication Eriksen showed while regaining his fitness before signing a short-term contract with Brentford in January and ending up having an extremely successful spell there.

MANCHESTER UNITED & THE MIDFIELD DILEMMA

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Manchester United’s lack of transfer activity this season and any potential deal for Christian Eriksen shows the harsh reality of the state at which the club has reached this window. The good old days back then where the top-class players would dream and dedicate their career for a chance to play at Old Trafford look bleak with respect to the current state where a player would avoid to be part of the mess this club is in. The club has put numerous offers to different targets all to either be rejected or being presented a price tag not worth the candle.

With Manchester United having six outgoing players on free transfers of which four are midfielders – Juan Mata, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Nemanja Matic, evidently shows what United will be missing next season and their hunt in replacing these experienced midfielders have narrowed their targets to Christian Eriksen and Frenkie De Jong at the time of writing. However, De Jong is a priority for Erik Ten Hag, its up to Christian Eriksen and his agents to decide the best decision for himself and whether to climb the Old Trafford wagon as him moving to Old Trafford might not make sense to the most; So, lets have a look at why this move might just turn out fine and the impact he will have to make the side better:

Man United having lost four experienced midfielders, and the current crop in the middle of the park comprises of – Fred, McTominay, Donny Van De Beek and Bruno Fernandes.

Considering what they’ve suffered with Fred and McTominay as their main midfielders behind Bruno, United still need of bolster this department with top quality experienced options to make them complete. The fixture congestion at sight for United competing in Europa League complemented by World Cup organized mid-season will force Ten Hag to keep rotating his squad to avoid any unwanted long-term absentees. The Danish playmaker would turn out to be not only a healthy competitor but also a protection to Fernandes. Signing Christian as a free agent will simply take up Mata’s wages and should not impact their transfer budget. While United being in ‘rebuilt’ phase, signing young talented players isn’t the only answer. Having experience of Eriksen in the squad will be equally important going forward with some of the youngsters like Hannibal still developing and in need of loan experience.

BUT, DOES CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN TO MANCHESTER UNITED MAKE SENSE?

Having Bruno Fernandes as their key playmaker and Donny reuniting with Ten Hag, the question arises whether Eriksen would even fit in the starting eleven – Eriksen will definitely bring something different when compared to the other two.

Bruno has been known in often finding out that final pass leading to the goal, but it doesn’t always work against teams setting up to press from mid-block and sit on a low-block. Fernandes and Donny are mostly better when they are directly connected to a striker, i.e. as a second striker where their short passes come into play and one can also make those runs in those goal scoring positions (much like how Mikel Arteta uses Odegaard at Arsenal). When performing against those sides who sit deep and compact, someone like Eriksen, who is better with long and yet accurate passes and much more efficient when in possession, would be a better fit at the middle of the field.

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It doesn’t look like Bruno, Donny and Eriksen fitting in the same starting XI unless Ten Hag decides to play a 4-3-3 false 9 where he plays with two 8s that maybe Eriksen, Donny or Garner who are very good in circulating the ball and a 6 assuming United get that De Jong deal done. In this particular scenario, Bruno can also be seen playing as a winger with Donny in False 9, which would be similar to Ten Hag playing Tadic as a false 9 in that Ajax’s 2018-19 successful campaign.

But overall, the signing of Christian Eriksen seems more of a replacement role to Paul Pogba who would drop deep in front of opposition’s midfield and generate those long passes to the flanks. In some games where high intensity football comes into play, he may struggle due to the lack of time on ball but in certain games, like Pogba, Eriksen could offer United that no other centrally advanced player would offer and break the defensive units with his top level passing ability.

AUTHOR’S OPINION

Moreover, by the looks of the squad that United entering next season, it doesn’t seem that Eriksen would be getting a regular game time but rather a signing to be used in rotation to Bruno and Donny. However, considering Eriksen and De Jong in the squad, United would still be short of a ball winning defensive midfielder. This preseason will be massive for ETH to understand the strength and weaknesses of his players and how to line up his tactics and perhaps decide the roles of his players can play for the start of the upcoming campaign.

Manchester United are about to have a long window ahead with a lot more players possibly coming in and with the rate at which the oppositions working on strengthening their squads, the Red Devils will have to breathe down their neck to make sure they compete among the elites rather then slug-off to make up for a European spot – especially with the likes of Aston Villa, Newcastle United, and West Ham looking like potential contenders for a bout by the business they are conducting/trying to conduct.

And for Christian Eriksen, this one is rather one pointing towards an emotional one rather than a financial one. Especially owing to the land of unknows as regards with how much football he has left in him and where can he make an impact that can be remembered and sung proudly. He did have that at Brentford, and it’s about if he has that time frame and capacity to develop that at the Red side of Manchester.

MUST READ:

Manchester United’s transfer window so far and Erik ten Hag’s vision
How will Frenkie de Jong fit in at Manchester United?

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