Is Christian Eriksen the missing piece in Antonio Conte’s setup?

Christian Eriksen swapped London for Milan with high expectations surrounding him. After all, the Danish international arrived as one of football’s premiere attacking midfielders, with few players yielding as much influence over games as him. While his talent is undeniable, Eriksen has been an awkward fit in Antonio Conte’s system, with the former Spurs man struggling to carve out an important role for himself.

Eriksen has largely been reduced to a super-sub since making the switch, featuring sparingly from the start. A trequartista by nature, Conte’s system simply cannot accommodate the Danish international, leaving him on the outskirts of the first team. The Italian tactician has typically fielded a midfield trio of Nicolo Barella, Marcelo Brozovic, and Arturo Vidal, with Roberto Gagliardini coming off the bench. Their mix of grit, technique, and steel make for one of Italy’s best midfield units and have since developed great chemistry between them.

While altering his preferred setup for a more fluid 3-4-1-2 would, in theory, allow Eriksen to play in his best position behind the strikers, Conte has refused to budge, forcing the former Spurs man to adapt. When Eriksen has featured, it has usually been from a deeper role as the side’s regista. The Danish international makes the most of his impressive passing range to dictate tempo and feed Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez. It is not his best position, but Eriksen has made it work in recent weeks.

Beyond his passing range, Eriksen’s introduction into the fold offers Inter a bonafide threat from set-pieces. The Nerazzurri have lacked a threatening presence from dead-ball situations since Wesley Sneijder was still around. Eriksen’s free-kick prowess was most recently on display against Milan in the Coppa Italia quarterfinals. With the game tied at one, the Danish international stepped up and led the Italian giants to victory with an inch-perfect free-kick.

Inter will be hoping the goal represents a change in fortunes for Eriksen, as the second half of the season approaches. Conte rewarded him with a rare start in Inter’s win over Benevento on Saturday, deploying him as the side’s deepest midfielder. Eriksen thrived at the base of midfield against Pippo Inzaghi’s side, pulling all the right strings on Saturday. The former Spurs man will be looking to build some momentum heading into a crucial stretch and establish himself as a starter under Conte. Usurping Brozovic in the starting lineup will not be easy, but Eriksen has the talent to do so.

With over a week left in the winter transfer window, Eriksen’s future appears further and further away from Milan. Recent reports have suggested Paris Saint-Germain are interested in him, while his former side, Tottenham, have informed Inter of their interest in a potential return. For the time being, however, Eriksen will be focused on the task ahead and will be looking to lead Inter to its first Scudetto in 11 years. The Italian giants are within touching distance of first place and with Eriksen firing on all cylinders, they may just have what it takes to pip their fierce rivals to the ultimate prize.

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