Eric Dier highlights importance of Christian Eriksen as Tottenham go flat without playmaker

Sidelined: Christian Eriksen: Getty Images

Pep Guardiola described Tottenham as the “Harry Kane team” but the absence of Christian Eriksen on Sunday was a reminder they rely on more than just one player.

Kane’s importance to Spurs was underlined again at St Mary’s Stadium but the way the team struggled without Eriksen showed they are not a solo operation.

Eriksen, 25, was ruled out because he was suffering from flu and Tottenham sorely missed their main creator as they slipped up in the race for the top four.

The Dane is integral to the way Spurs play and without his craft and guile they failed to find a winner against Southampton after Kane equalised with his 99th Premier League goal.

Eriksen is a master of finding pockets of space, linking up play and he is normally the main supply line to Kane.

With Eriksen unavailable, Dele Alli struggled to carry the creative burden, Heung-min Son was quiet and his replacement Moussa Sissoko again struggled.

Mauricio Pochettino started Sissoko ahead of Erik Lamela and Tottenham could not unpick Southampton on a frustrating afternoon.

“Christian plays an important role in the team,” said Eric Dier. “He is one of the links between phases of play and is key in that regard. He can create chances and score goals.

“He is a fantastic player. We have a great squad but there are not many players like Christian. It was a difficult game and Southampton did well. We could not control the game the way we would like to. They defended well but we would like to create more chances.”

Sunday was the first time Eriksen has not started a Premier League game this season and the hole left by his absence showed how important it is to tie him to a new contract.

Eriksen is said to be in talks over an improved deal amid interest from Juventus.

Reports yesterday suggested Real Madrid will target Kane in the summer but, after the draw against Southampton, keeping Eriksen must be another priority for the club.

Tottenham did create a chance for Kane in the final minute but he missed and Spurs lost ground in the fight to qualify for the Champions League.

The result means they could be five points outside the top four if Liverpool win at Swansea tonight.

It was a missed opportunity and increases the pressure on a crucial phase coming up of three games in 10 days that could shape their season.

After Tottenham play Newport County in the FA Cup on Saturday, Manchester United visit Wembley next Wednesday before Spurs go to Liverpool next Saturday. After that they then host Arsenal in the North London Derby the following Saturday.

The challenge for Pochettino’s men is now to get enough points from those fixtures to keep pace with United, Chelsea and Liverpool above them.

Dier said: “We want to keep on everyone’s heels and everyone winning on Saturday and us drawing is not ideal. It is very disappointing but we move on now.”

Top-four rivals United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal have all made signings this month but Pochettino has said he is not concerned Spurs have yet to add to their squad.

Tottenham were also missing captain Hugo Lloris because of flu and other players were affected by a virus but Pochettino said it did not impact on their performance.

(Getty Images)

“Players were affected but that is no excuse,” said Pochettino. “Our performance was not the best.

“We need to be focused now and try to improve because we must do better and if we want to be in the top four we need to improve and increase our level.”

Stand-in goalkeeper Michel Vorm added: “A few were ill this week. Hugo and Christian were out.

“It did not help but it is about the guys on the pitch. We had a strong enough side to win.”