By Tottenham correspondent Tony Hughes
Eric Dier has made a quick transition from defence to midfield and can develop even further in the position, according to Martin Keown.
The Arsenal legend has been struck by the progress made by the versatile Tottenham man since he was pushed further up the pitch by club manager Mauricio Pochettino at the start of the season.
Dier, 22, has started 30 of Spurs’ 31 Premier League matches in the midfield anchorman role and has been a key figure in the team’s title challenge.
Former Arsenal defender Keown has revealed he predicted soon after Dier joined Spurs that the youngster was one of three young England centre-backs who could be tried in midfield.
“I was speaking with Gareth Southgate last season and suggested that it might be worth playing one of Eric Dier, Calum Chambers and John Stones in midfield for the Under 21s,” Keown wrote in his Mail column. “There were a lack of defensive midfield options at the time, and it would have been a shame to have one of those three quality centre halves sitting on the bench.
“But then Mauricio Pochettino did England a favour and pushed Dier up the pitch for Tottenham during pre-season. He was far from perfect in his new position, but Pochettino stuck with him and he has settled into the role.”
Dier scored the winning goal with a bullet header in injury time for England on Saturday as they came from two goals down to beat Germany 3-2 and seal a remarkable triumph.
Keown noted the qualities that have made Dier such a force for his club and a growing influence for his country.
“He has mobility, pace, technical ability and good composure, and Pochettino has made him believe he’s a midfielder,” said the former defender.
“One thing he does which really impresses me is let the ball run across his body on to his back foot, which opens up the pitch for him. This gives him the time he needs to pick out a good forward pass, rather than get rid of it quickly to the nearest team-mate.
“He also provides a lot of extra power in the air at set-pieces — at both ends of the pitch. His winning header was excellent, and he put in a few important clearances when England were defending corners.
“He’s made a quick transition from defence to midfield — particularly when you consider how comfortable he looks in the role at international level. Arsene Wenger believes all centre backs should have a spell in midfield for their development.
“There’s still work to be done in England’s midfield — Dier was pulled out of position and not covered by Alli or Jordan Henderson for Germany’s disallowed goal — but there are promising signs.”
In other Tottenham news, the high-flying Londoners are close to clinching a £41million double deal.