Is Dele Alli having a bad season for Tottenham Hotspur? Absolutely not!
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The 21-year-old was already enjoying a very good campaign prior to his matchwinning display at Stamford Bridge, but only now does everyone seem to realise
A lot was written about Dele Alli in the build up to Sunday’s Premier League showdown between Chelsea and Spurs and the ‘pressure’ was on the youngster to step up to the plate.
Presumably he had to do this because he was having a ‘bad’ season or in the middle of a ‘blip’ which had resulted in England manager Gareth Southgate not starting him in either of the Three Lions recent friendly games.
Yet, if you have actually watched Tottenham Hotspur since the end of December you will know Alli is actually enjoying another very good campaign.
Granted, he hasn’t scored as many goals as his previous two seasons and this time last year he had scored 17 times for Spurs compared to 12 overall this term – including his brace at Chelsea.
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But what has changed about Alli’s game is not his quality, simply his position and role in the team, although only slightly.
Over the past two campaigns, the former MK Dons ace has transformed from a central midfielder into a second striker.
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It saw him net over 20 goals last season and on 10 occasions during his maiden term at White Hart Lane.
This season he has adjudsted his game – perhaps down to boss Mauricio Pochettino or maybe because he gets even closer attention now.
While Alli has ‘only’ scored 12 times for Spurs in all competitions, he has created 14 which is more than anyone else in the Tottenham squad.
Overall he has been involved in 26 goals and again it is worth reminding everyone he is only 21.
Pochettino felt it was important to point that out when reflecting on the 3-1 win over Chelsea on Sunday.
He was asked about Alli’s first goal at Stamford Bridge when the midfielder sprung forward and controlled Eric Dier’s inch-perfect pass over his shoulder before he slotted past Willy Caballero.
It was a sensational goal all-round, Pochettino said: “Dele’s best skill is to arrive in the second line in the box. He’s scored a lot of goals like this.
“Of course we have focused and tried to bring every single skill into our play, but it was a fantastic goal with the control and the way he finished – it was amazing.”
As Pochettino explains, Alli’s timing is one of his greatest qualities, but this season it has been all about his vision and execution.
He does give the ball away and there was a period towards the end of November and start of December where he was struggling, but he has bounced back brilliantly and his manager deserves credit.
Alli could have been dropped, but his Argentinean boss kept faith with the Three Lions star and he has been rewarded with a consistent run of form in recent months.
The maverick, who has been criticised for diving this season and rightly so at times, was influential at AFC Bournemouth, important against Huddersfield Town, and at Juventus, and impressive against Arsenal.
Alli’s been in good form for a decent chunk of time now and going further back he played his part in wins over Manchester United, Everton, Swansea City, Southampton and Burnley.
What’s been interesting to note in away games for much of the season is the number of times the England man has been booed and abused.
It is hard to put your finger on when it started, but wherever Alli goes, he is constantly the subject of crowd antagonism.
A lot of 21-year-olds would struggle to cope with that, as well as the scrutiny he is under from the media, but the Tottenham number 20 seems to relish and thrive off it.
Alli was at it again on Sunday, wheeling away cupping his ear after silencing the Chelsea fans in the Shed.
Pochettino commented: “I didn’t see the celebration, so I can say nothing about that, but, of course, he has a strong character and personality. But I didn’t see it. He doesn’t need to show us anything because we trust and we believe in him.”
The manager who works with him the most has complete trust and belief in the young playmaker and maybe everyone on the outside should now too. Is Alli having a bad season? Absolutely not!