There is no question about it, the Dele Alli we witnessed earlier this season is not the 19-year-old we saw in his breakthrough campaign in North London.
Alli’s first two seasons saw him involved in 87 goals across 146 games for the club and was adored by Spurs fans. (Transfermarkt)
Few fans could have imagine a 19-year-old player from League One making any sort of impact in the Premier League. However, Alli did do that and not only impressed but was influential to Spurs in his first season.
In his first campaign in a lilywhite shirt, Alli netted an impressive 10 goals and 11 assists in 46 appearances before going onto develop even further next season, scoring 22 goals and 13 assists across the 16/17 campaign. (Transfermarkt)
So, what actually happened to this goalscoring midfielder?
Tiredness, injuries, and unnatural position are possibly a few reasons to why Dele’s form has slipped massively these past two seasons. In his first three campaigns, the English midfielder featured in 146 games without missing any games as a result of injury.
Across the 2016/17 season, Dele played 2nd most minutes in the Premier League for Spurs with 3045. Also, the 5th highest in 2017/18 season with 2972 minutes, without having any injury worries or scares (WorldFootball). Then was on the plane to Russia for the 2018 World Cup, appearing in four of the six games.
It was no surprise in September 2018 when Dele suffered a hamstring injury and missed one month of action, nine games in total. Then later that season, he suffered a thigh muscle strain, meaning he missed 48 days and 12 games (Transfermarkt). Injuries are part of the game and every footballer will suffer from them, but Dele has struggled to really rejuvenate his form since then.
Plus, Dele was pushed into a deeper position among the past year to accommodate the lack of presence in the midfield area.
Mousa Dembele was eventually sold in January 2019 and Victor Wanyama continued to struggle for fitness. Leading to Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko being the only two fit midfielders across the 2018/19 season. Hard to blame this on anyone else than the hierarchy at Spurs with no signings in 18 months.
Winks then suffers an injury in the backend of the season, causing Dele to play in that central role. Which was then carried on into this season under Mauricio Pochettino.
So, it was no surprise when Jose Mourinho was announced as manager and pushed Dele into his natural position that we see him thrive, scoring seven of his nine goals this season. Also, Dele tops the most goals scored in the Premier League by a midfielder with eight goals (joint with Kevin De Bruyne). (Premier League)
Overall, Dele’s performances have been below-par. But that was always going to happen with the high-expectation among fans. The lack of injuries earlier in his career meant Dele was not mentally and physically prepared for when it actually happened.
Pochettino even admitted in August of last year that he was concerned by the number of hamstring injuries the midfielder has suffered and urged him to pay more attention to what is going on with his body (Guardian).
These past two seasons show that he still has not fully recovered from these injuries and hopefully the past two months have meant we see Dele regain his full fitness and can once again look to rekindle the form we saw earlier in his time at the club.
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