Dele Alli: Star in the Making?


Every Spurs fan by now knows that manager Mauricio Pochettino loves to develop young players. At Southampton, that was an integral piece in his success, as he turned the best products in Saints’ bountiful youth academy- Luke Shaw, Callum Chambers, James Ward-Prowse- and made them staples in Southampton’s starting XI.

At Spurs, Pochettino has placed a similar emphasis on youth, as he inserted a few young, mostly untested players into Spurs’ lineup. Harry Kane is the most successful example of the coach’s policy, as the 21 year old had a brilliant campaign for Spurs, even winnning the PFA Young Player of the Year award.

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Next season, Pochettino will have another PFA award winner to work with: Dele Alli.

Alli, who was named the Football League’s Young Player of the Year by the PFA, is a 19 year old English midfielder who Spurs purchased for 5 million pounds from MK Dons and then loaned immediately back to the League One side. Alli has immense potential. He was reportedly wanted by Liverpool, Arsenal, and Manchester United before Spurs were able to snatch him up.

If Pochettino is looking for a young player to take a spot in the starting lineup next season just as Kane did this campaign, Alli is his best bet. Alli is a talented player who fits a position of need: central midfield. ESPNFC describes Alli as being a “true box-to-box midfielder”. Spurs desperately need help in center midfield next season. Alli could provide help both defensively and offensively at that position. He is athletic and can tackle, and also can score and assist teammates, as he has 16 goals and 10 assists for MK Dons this season.

Alli looks like the player Spurs thought they would get when the signed Moussa Dembele from Fulham a few summers ago. Dembele was suppossed to be a box-to-box midfielder who could defend and then charge forward with the ball to score and set up his teammates. But Spurs only ever saw Dembele’s athleticism on the ball and impressive dribbling skills, as he rarely gave anything to the side in the final third.

Alli should provide the attacking impetus that Dembele never could in midfield, as he has the goal and assist records to prove it. Just like Dembele, he can ghost by players while dribbling as if they were not there. But when he gets into the final third, he will be able to pick out Harry Kane, or aim for the bottom corner of the goal, instead of passing sideways or backwards like Dembele.

There could be some drawbacks to Alli if he gets a lots of playing time next season. One of the major issues with Spurs’ midfield this season has been their organization, as neither of Spurs’ holding players have been very good at shielding the back line. While Alli is a good tackler, and should develop into a good defensive player with time, he should not be counted on to provide a lot of discipline in midfield in his first season in the top flight. In fact, one of his specific weaknesses as noted by ESPNFC is his positional discipline. However, his aggressive pressing style should fit Pochettino’s preferred style of defending. In time, when he gains experience, Alli should turn into an excellent defensive player under Pochettino’s tutelage.

So, Alli seems like the total package in midfield: a supreme athlete who is technical enough to create chances for himself and his teammates. While he may not start right away for Spurs, he should receive a lot of playing time. And Spurs’ fans should be very excited for what Alli can bring.

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