In my last article I wrote that Christian Eriksen is the direct replacement to Rafael Van der Vaart. Now there’s no questioning Eriksen is excellent, for me, our best outfield player by a distance. However is he the same as our beloved Dutchman?
Their careers both started in the famous Ajax academy, Rafa made his first team debut in April 2000, almost 10 years later in January 20010 Christian Eriksen followed similarly in his footsteps, making his first team debut at the Amsterdam club. Rafael played 5 seasons in Amsterdam. While Christian played 4 and 1/2 seasons. In their time in the Eredivisie and European competition Rafael made 156 appearances, scoring 63 goals and assisting 25. While our current Number 23 played 163 games, scoring 32 goals and making 66 assists. These respective records show almost the opposite pattern in terms of goal and assists. Van Der Vaart, more of a goal scorer, with Eriksen preferring to assist and to be unselfish.
Then, after excelling in Holland and attracting interest from some of the biggest clubs in the world, both made the slightly unexpected, but possibly wiser decision to go to slightly smaller teams, where they’d be guaranteed first team football. Rafa joining Hamburg SV (for his first spell there) and Christian making the fantastic decision to join us at Tottenham Hotspur. Both players went on to excel at these teams. Rafa going on to Real Madrid and then coming over to Spurs and most recently he returned to Hamburg.
Comparing their respective impacts may be tricky. While Rafa came into a team qualified for the Champions League and with the likes of Modric and the emerging Bale and a settled team. However ‘The Great Dane’ came in to replace Gareth Bale, along with 7 new signings, in a team that only qualified for the Europa League. Rafael hit the ground running, with brilliant form at the start of the Premier League and our maiden and only Champions League campaign, however towards the end his form did dip a little, but being played at right wing and some injury niggles could probably be blamed for this. Conversely, despite a fantastic debut, Christian was promising, but not brilliant for a while, then a nasty ankle injury saw him miss a couple of months of his debut campaign in N17. After recovering from this Eriksen pushed on massively, for the last third of the season he was unplayable at times. His performances against Southampton and Sunderland at home stand out. By the end of their respective first season’s, Rafa finished with 36 games and 2701 minutes, scoring 15 and assisting 10, in all competitions. Eriksen matched the number of games, 36, but only played 2591 minutes and scored 10 and assisted 12. Comparing the two, over their respective first seasons, Rafa obviously was involved in more goals, in slightly more minutes. However this was a man at the peak of his powers, with great service (but it should be noted that in both Premier League seasons we scored 55 goals). Rafa also played and played well against the likes of the two Milan sides and Real Madrid in the pinnacle of European football, while this season our Thursday night meetings with Sheriff and Tromso were far easier for us and Eriksen, boosting Rafa’s credential.s
The thing is Eriksen turned 22 during his first season. He will undoubtedly improve, he was played out of position on the wing by Dim Sherwood and even occasionally in the centre of a 442. While Rafa had 0 defensive responsibilities, playing as a 2nd striker in a 4411 being on the right of midfield occasionally. Eriksen provides a few more assists and service for the team than Rafa did, while not being too far behind on goals and operating slightly deeper (and hopefully not on the left anymore). There’s no doubt Eriksen has the talent of Rafa. If he kicks on and stays at Spurs he can certainly equal and surpass our flying Dutchman. He’s got potential to improve and at such a young age he’s definitely going to be better in the future. Our Danish dynamite can go so far. He is currently very close to Rafa’s level, it looks like he will go over it. Undoubtedly we need to build the team around him, he really is rather special.
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