I go through stages with Dele Alli. One week I will find myself saying “If a serious bid comes in we should sell the petulant little arsehole”. The next I will be defending him and pointing to his great record for us since his arrival.
Dele has scored more goals in his first 100 premier league games than Gerrard, Lampard, Hazard, Mata, Pires, and plenty of others.
The game is just about goals of course, and he has more league assists this season than Eriksen, Pogba, Mahrez, Lingard, Ozil, Salah, Sterling…
The criticisms some have been throwing at Dele this season have been mainly down to three things:
1. He hasn’t scored as many as last season.
2. He hasn’t made much impact in the bigger games and can go missing.
3. He has been diving and he has at times had a poor attitude.
I thought I would address those points individually.
Firstly; his perceived lack of goals. He has 8 premier league goals this season plus a handful in other competitions. To continue the earlier theme of saying who that is more than, that includes Willian, David Silva, De Bruyne, Rashford, Ozil, Giroud. I could go on for a long time. Do we all think he could have scored more this season? Yes. But that is our fault, not his.
The reason that people are expecting so much from him in terms of goals is because of the ridiculous level we have seen from him up to now. Last season he scored 18 premier league goals. Until Harry Kane came along, that would have been regarded as a very impressive tally for us. Not including Kane, only four times previously has someone scored 18 premier league goals for us in a season (Bale, Sheringham, Klinsmann, Defoe). And we have to remember he was 20 years old last season, and a midfielder (of sorts…).
Secondly; impact in bigger games. I could answer this very quickly just by saying “Chelsea and Real Madrid”. To discuss this further, I would argue that this is one area of his game this season that could do with a little improvement. It isn’t that easy of course, you can’t just say to someone “be better”. I suspect this has been more down to the team style of play, in that we can sometimes move the ball too slowly and struggle to find a killer instinct in tough matches. And again down to the previous point, he is still only 21 and not the finished article and we are expecting too much.
Besides, there is a lot more to the game that just stats. That is why we all love watching football and why there are millions of people up and down the country talking about it. There aren’t stats than can account for everything. In our third goal against Chelsea yesterday, Son should have passed earlier, it turned into a bit of a scrap and Alli scored. There is no assist for anyone there I believe. But none of that would have been possible without Eriksen’s excellent pass in the middle of the pitch to play Son in. And he won’t officially get any “stat” for that. This is likely true of Dele. A lot of the work he does is off the ball, dragging people out of positions, pressing defenders. It is not always down to goals and assists.
Thirdly; his attitude. Stop diving, stop swearing at referees, stop punching West Brom defenders in the stomach. This is another area that we have to remember he is a 21 year old man with a lot of expectation on him, and an unbelievable level of public scrutiny. I trust Pochettino to coach and manage this out of him. Not too much though, you need a player or two with a bit of an edge.
To sum up. Dele Alli has been an unbelievable player for us over the last 2 or 3 seasons. Has he been at his best the last few months? Possibly not. In my opinion he is largely falling victim to setting standards very high, and the fact that Son is in such great form, leaving him in his wake a little. I personally believe that he could benefit every now and then from a place on the bench. This might give him a bit of a kick up the arse, and also take some of the pressure off him.
He isn’t perfect, he has a lot to learn and yes he can be a little frustrating at times. But let’s get behind him and be grateful that these are the kind of problems we have these days, and not trying to choose between Michael Brown and Hossam Ghaly in midfield.
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