Manchester United midfielder Christian Eriksen has been criticised for his lack of defensive output, and it has been suggested by presenter Gav Drinkwater that he should not start against Arsenal.
What’s the word?
The Danish midfielder has been in strong attacking form since arriving in the summer, scoring twice and assisting nine times in 28 appearances, but his defensive contributions are now being questioned.
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With defensive midfielder Casemiro suspended for United’s trip to the Emirates to face the league leaders, it has been suggested that Eriksen should be dropped for a more defensive option in either Fred or Scott McTominay.
Speaking on the Stretford Paddock podcast, Drinkwater expressed his admiration for Eriksen’s attacking displays but bemoaned his ability to help out at the back.
“I think he’s United’s top assister this season – he’s got something like 10 assists, he’s remarkable; he’s been brilliant for United this season on a free.
“But Christian Eriksen, and you saw it in the Palace game in the first half, offers absolutely nothing defensively. Players just drift by him, he doesn’t get stuck in, he doesn’t challenge for headers, he offers nothing.
“Luckily, you’ve got the best defensive midfielder in the world in Casemiro there to back him up. We’re not going to have that against Arsenal.
“For me, you’ve got to play Fred and McTominay.”
A safer approach
Although Eriksen has been superb going forward this season – he has got nine assists so far this term – United cannot risk playing an open midfield against Arsenal, who may dominate the ball given the quality in the middle with Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka and Martin Odegaard, as they have averaged more possession in the league than United this season.
If Casemiro was available, Eriksen could have been played to provide a strong final ball, but without the former Real Madrid star, McTominay may be preferred.
As per FBref, McTominay ranks in the top 4% of midfielders for aerial duels and clearances over the past year in Europe’s top competitions – a far cry from Eriksen, who ranks in the bottom 50% in both metrics, and this physicality in the middle may be necessary against such a strong opponent away from home.