What Is Going Wrong for Christian Eriksen at Inter?

In January 2020, Christian Eriksen exchanged playing in the Champions League with Tottenham for a shot at the Europa League trophy at Inter. Six months later, the Spurs had been humiliated in the elite European Cup competition. At the same time, the Danish midfielder went on to play in the Final of Europe’s second-tier knockout contest with the Nerazzurri.

At the start of this journey, Tottenham seemed to be on the wrong end of the bargain. The Nerazzurri were getting a quality asset for a fraction of his market value. Eriksen was joining a squad that was vying for Serie A glory. Only the Spurs were on the losing end. Not only they lost one of their talismanic players, but also got just 27M euro in exchange – 33M less than the offer they scoffed at from Real Madrid.

But the move has not come to fruition as everyone had envisioned at the start. Even at the end of the 2020 summer transfer window, there were rumors about Inter looking for suitors for the Dane. Antonio Conte had gone on a recruitment drive to get the best aging stars on the continent, and there was no space for Eriksen in the Inter dressing room.

Commentators and analysts used up precious bytes to question the offensive playmaker’s work rate. This was being said about a man who stayed in Inter’s training facilities for two weeks with five staff members during the pandemic. He ran in the empty parking lots, 35 meters at a time.

Eriksen’s commitment to Nerazzurri’s cause is there, but something is missing. Why else would Inter be ready to trade him for Mariano Isco, who is having an equally woeful 2020-21 campaign at the Santiago Bernabeu? Something is amiss, and it is being ignored despite being in plain sight.

Eriksen is not struggling to adjust because he does not work hard. Eriksen does work a lot and can be a part of Conte’s system at Inter. The numbers to support that are there, just like they have always been. Eriksen boast a successful passing percentage of over 87% and averages one dribbling per game. Couple this with his 0.6 tackles per game, and you have a player who is covering the length of the field.

However, why does Erisken have no goals and no assists to show for at Inter? Nicolò Barella has three to his name, then why not Eriksen? But, then again, this is a false comparison. Barella is the only Inter central midfielder with more than an assist to his name. Roberto Gagliardini has no one. All other Inter’s goals this season were created from the flanks – Achraf Hakimi, Ashley Young, Aleksandar Kolarov being the notable providers.

Inter’s game develops from the wings, and the push from the middle puts the finishing touches. The midfield is there to suppress the press and avoid counterattacks. Romelu Lukaku continues to lead the goal scoring charts and have been ably complemented by Lautaro Martinez. Everyone and anyone who takes the channels has also gotten on the scoreboard. In the triumph over Benevento, Marcelo Brozovic opened the tally with a solo effort, a feat also achieved by Roberto Gagliardini.

So, it should be quite clear where the goals are coming from at Inter and who is scoring them. Inter like to build from the wings and overload the penalty box to trouble the scorers.

So, where does an attacking playmaker like Christian Eriksen come into play? Can it be that his sole responsibility at the San Siro is to pass the ball around and hound the opposition to retrieve possession?

The answer is not simple. To understand where Eriksen’s skills are put to use, we must look at the development of Inter’s attacks. Eriksen can take on attackers and does not come under pressure when pressed. His ability to find a teammate is true, and this allows the Nerazzurri to continue in the opposition’s third. He is the fulcrum from where all the possession is distributed.

This is his role at Inter and was his role in London. Like Luka Modric before at Tottenham, Eriksen is central in the buildup but is not the final provider. The final pass does not come from him, but he creates the domino effect that makes room for that. Inter knew this before they signed him. Antonio Conte was well aware of his abilities as well as he had seen him closeup while at the helm of Chelsea.

Still, this doesn’t answer the question of why is Eriksen being frozen out of Inter’s first-team? Or when will he play the entirety of a competitive fixture for the Italian giants? Eriksen has been on the bench for the Nerazzurri’s last two games against Real Madrid and Atalanta. Moreover, he has only started three games in Serie A and once in the Champions League this season.

The 28-year-old’s omission from the starting XI points towards a lack of confidence. But it can also be attributed to Conte having to find the right midfield balance for this season. We are only seven games into the campaing and, with a non-existent pre-season, Inter are still finding their feet. Perhaps both assumptions are true.

Conte himself admitted in a press conference that Eriksen is not performing at the level he expects from him at Inter. The tenacious manager wants more from his prized possession and has thrown the gauntlet for him. Eriksen has the tools to rise to the occasion, and with time on his side, his answer will come on the pitch.

Time for judgment is close, and a decision on his future will be made soon. However, Eriksen should not be judged on the goals he scores or the assists he lays down. This is not his job or why he was brought in the first place. Those are bonuses in the Nerazzurri cause. He will be judged for Inter’s performances while he is on the pitch. So far, he has been ineffective, and Inter fans can only wish the results will pick up.


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