Inter head coach Antonio Conte made it amply clear that he wanted to see a great deal from Christian Eriksen when his side overcame Fiorentina 2-1 after extra-time in the Coppa Italia on Wednesday.
Still linked with a January move to Tottenham or Paris Saint-Germain, it was seen as the Denmark star’s last great opportunity to impress in Italy.
The playmaker has endured a frustrating 12 months in Italy. He has failed to win the trust of Conte in his favoured No.10 role, amassing a handful of minutes, mostly as a substitute, this season.
In Florence, though, there was one final throw of the dice. Eriksen was deployed in a role the Italians know as a regista – a deep-lying playmaker.
Conte did not shy away from building the Dane up ahead of his outing in this novel role.
“We worked on his positional play. I expect great things from Christian,” he said prior to the match. “Obviously, if this works and he plays well, it’ll have a bearing on his future.”
How did Eriksen fare?
Eriksen, who played the full 120 minutes, performed much as one would expect of a playmaker who has been asked to play in a deeper role.
His forward passing was regularly shrewd and incisive. He was at the base of the move that saw Achraf Hakimi squander a late opportunity to win the match, while a shot from range in the first half drew a fumble from the home goalkeeper that Alexis Sanchez could only subsequently force off the post.
He was not aided by his team-mates, though. When he found pockets of space, often they made poor decisions and bypassed him.
These signs, then, were positive for Eriksen.
Defensively, though, there were flaws. He struggled to appreciate what was happening behind him and therefore failed to close down passing angles that allowed Fiorentina to move into the final third with comparative ease.
Indeed, the Viola bossed the midfield for long periods of the second half of normal time with worrying ease.
Has Conte been won over?
While Eriksen undoubtedly proved he can play the regista role in a pinch, it is doubtful he did enough to secure a long-term part of Conte’s plans.
In order to be truly effective in this new position, he will need weeks of work and that is a luxury that Inter simply cannot afford.