Eric Dier should be in the England squad – 16 clean sheets in 35 appearances for Spurs is proof of that
Eric Dier has played 35 Premier League games this season and has kept clean sheets in 16 of them. It was the most common, tied with Hugo Lloris, of all players outside of Liverpool and Manchester City. In the three matches he missed, Spurs conceded seven goals.
With Dier mustering the defence, Spurs have conceded five goals in their last 11 matches and two in their last six. His performances helped Spurs confound most people’s expectations of qualifying for the Champions League.
Yet on Tuesday Dier was once again left out of Gareth Southgate’s England squad – this time for Nations League matches against Hungary (twice), Italy and Germany.
“I agree that Eric has played very well with Spurs. We know Eric. We don’t know some of those younger guys either,” Southgate said on Tuesday in explanation. those were good matches to learn more about those. It is definitely in our thinking. But right now we can’t give everyone the time on the pitch that we’d like. And we felt that investing time in Fikayo Tomori, Marc Guehi, Ben White in particular, those younger guys, ahead of Eric for this camp, would be more valuable to us.
It’s a curious decision, especially as England often play with three at the back, the system in which Dier has excelled this season under Antonio Conte (although Southgate appeared to suggest on Tuesday that he only sees Dier than being able to play in a three, while he is looking for centre-backs who can play in a two or a three). Southgate is usually loyal to players who have performed well under him unless he has a reason not to choose them, and in that sense Conor Coady and White make sense. Neither has done England or its clubs much harm this season.
But Dier was more than solid this season – he was exceptional, both defensively and often with his distribution. As Athleticism demonstrated earlier in the season, his longer penetrating passes have given Spurs another dimension in attack. Dier has had his fair share of criticism at Spurs over the past few years, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn’t been hugely impressed with his performances this season, especially since Conte’s arrival in November. Statistically, he is the highest performing England centre-back since the March internationals, according to WhoScored’s model.
He looks transformed compared to the player who struggled last year during the scorching days of the Jose Mourinho era.
It was these displays in the second half of the 2020-21 campaign that convinced Southgate against taking Dier to the Euros. It wasn’t a decision he took lightly – Dier is a player and a personality he values a lot. Southgate twice picked Dier to lead the side and there must have been some understanding that Dier wasn’t the only one last season not producing his best form in what was a largely dysfunctional Spurs side. .
His response this season has been exceptional. Even during the difficult few months under Nuno Espirito Santo, Dier was one of the team’s most consistent performers, and how his performance levels did not drop even under those circumstances impressed many at Spurs. . Players and staff are now left baffled by his non-selection for England, with some wondering what he needs to do to be selected given his strong performances throughout the season.
As Cristian Romero said in an interview with Athleticism last month: “What a great season he’s having – he brings a lot to the team, loads as a player. I guess it’s his goal to get back into the international setup. We all think he’s doing well and it can’t be long with the form he’s showing before he returns to the England squad.
Goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini made the same point with an Instagram reference to Dier’s omission from the previous England squad in March, while first-team coach Ryan Mason wrote clearly about his story. Instagram that Dier had been the “best English CB in the Prem this season”. just hours after Southgate announced their current selection.
— The Spurs Web (@thespursweb) March 21, 2022
Dier’s absence from the national team could end up being to Tottenham’s advantage as it will give him a free summer and, if he continues to be un-capped, a break next season during the World Cup. He should return next season feeling completely refreshed. But all clubs are proud of their players and want to see them develop as much as possible. Dier’s club colleagues would therefore like to see him get the international recognition they feel they deserve. Some also found it odd that Southgate had not been in touch with Dier to explain the decision.
Those at Spurs are also keenly aware of what Dier offers off the pitch as well. His language skills – Dier is fluent in English, Portuguese and Spanish – make him the focal point of the locker room. This season, for example, he played an important role in helping Romero settle down.
“He was instrumental when I joined,” Romero said Athleticism in April. “We always got along well on and off the pitch. The fact that he speaks Spanish also helps a lot with our understanding on the pitch. He also helped to integrate me into the group.
“From the day I arrived he was very good at introducing me to everyone and making me feel at home as well so I was grateful for that.”
Southgate are well aware of these attributes, and having already chosen Dier as captain, were considering him as a possible skipper before handing the armband to Harry Kane ahead of the 2018 World Cup (although when the Under-21 manager sometimes overlooked Dier and did not include him in the squad for the 2015 European Championship). Interestingly, Sam Walker, the well-respected sports consultant, former Wall Street Journal sports editor and author of The Captain Class book on leadership which was read attentively by the head coach of the Southgate and England, Eddie Jones, said in November 2017 that: “There is a big focus now in England on Harry Kane but I think there is a perfect captain in this team.
“It’s Eric Dier. The more I look at his profile, the more I see him. He is totally selfless; will switch from midfield, centre-back and right-back at all times. You can see his communication style is there when you see him on the pitch with Dele Alli or Harry Kane. He’s not a shouter or a talker, but I think he can approach anyone.
At Spurs, he’s someone who ‘can approach anyone’, and given his performances this season and his leadership qualities, it’s hard to see why he continues to be overlooked for his country. .
Knowing Dier, he will see this last omission as motivation rather than something to dwell on. And come back even stronger next season. Strong enough, surely, to be in contention for England’s World Cup squad.
(Top photo: James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)