Welcome to The BPL Youth Report, in which I count down the top three under-23 players in the Premier League week. In a week of debutants and squad experimentation, Week One was always going to be tight.
3. Eric Dier
This 20 year-old was discovered when his mum got a job in Portugal, and was quickly snapped up by Sporting Lisbon, who offered Dier a trial at the age of nine. Safe to say, his football career started early. The Englishman played for Sporting’s first team 32 times, a hefty number for such a young player, and found himself on loan to Everton for 18 months in order to ‘toughen him up’, following a nearly ten-year stint on the continent.
With his move to fellow Premier League Europe-chasers Tottenham for £4 million, he’ll be looking to make his mark on a Hotspur side led by Mauricio Pochettino, a coach known for his faith in the younger generation; and boy did he make his mark this weekend.
At Sporting, Dier alternated between the centre back, right back and central midfield positions, and his performance at the weekend was a testament to his versatility (a trait not often associated with English defenders). Not only was Dier strong in the air, putting his 6 foot 2 frame to it’s full use, but his ball play was unsurprisingly fluid, given his continental upbringing.
It’s hard to judge his central defending ability thus far, as he was shipped out to right back following Kyle Naughton’s speculative red card for handball. His debut at right back displayed his fine positioning and his comfortability in possession, while he capped off his more than satisfactory Tottenham debut with a last-minute piece of composure at its finest.
Despite the urging of the Tottenham backroom staff to PLEASE GET BACK AND HOLD OUT FOR THE RESULT, Dier found himself with the opportunity to peel away from the so-far impenetrable West Ham back line and thanks to a Harry Kane through ball, promptly tapped the ball past Adrian and slotted home into an empty goal.
Amid the hectic post-goal celebrations, many may have forgotten the valiant defensive display the 20 year old put in that day. Whoscored.com gave Dier a rating of 7.98 – putting him in the top 6 centre backs this week.
Not bad for a 20 year old debutant.