Tottenham’s Dele Alli: Premier League’s most valuable midfielder

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Watford at White Hart Lane on April 8, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Watford at White Hart Lane on April 8, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images) /

Dele Alli, when all factors are taken into consideration, is the Premier League’s most valuable midfielder and he’s only 20 years old.

The young phenom scored his 16th league goal of the season in Saturday’s 4-0 thrashing of Watford. In doing so, Alli has contributed to 40 top-flight goals in 63 appearances since his Spurs début last season.

How Alli measures up to other Premier League greats

That equals the total contribution of Frank Lampard (15), Steven Gerrard (13) and David Beckham (12) at the same early stage of their careers.

But that’s merely the tip of the Alli iceberg.

This wunderkind sets himself apart from the rest in many ways. His 26 goals since the start of the 2015-16 campaign are the most of any player under the age of 23 in Europe. Alli also reached the 20-goal milestone in 52 games, once again substantially quicker than his predecessors.

It took Paul Scholes 74 games, Beckham 90, Lampard 140 and Gerrard 169 games to accomplish the same feat.

Maybe most impressively, Tottenham have never lost a Premier League game in which Alli has scored, emboldening the young Englishman’s influence on the team. Spurs have won 16 matches and drawn five when Alli bags a goal.

Alli’s first season with Spurs

It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that only two years ago Alli was playing for MK Dons. He made his first MK Dons start at the tender age of 16.

But it feels like he’s been around for ages. And, while he sometimes makes impetuous decisions you’d expect from a 20-year-old, oftentimes he carries himself with the maturity and experience well beyond his years.

In his 33 appearances during his début season with Spurs, Alli scored 10 goals and chipped in with nine assists. That’s more than a goal or assist every two games.

Not bad for a rookie.

He grabbed his first career brace in an eight-shot performance away to Stoke in April 2016.

His first multi-assist outing came on March 13, 2016 against Aston Villa in a 2-0 away triumph. It was a taste of things to come.

Alli’s 2016-17 stats

Alli announced himself on the world stage during the current campaign, in which he’s scored 16 goals and added five assists in 30 appearances.

The lean midfielder, since the turn of the year, has been involved in 14 goals – 10 goals and four assists – in 13 top-flight games. The magnitude of those goals, especially considering the recent absence of top goalscorer Harry Kane, cannot be measured purely by numbers.

His pivotal late goal against Swansea brought Spurs back to level terms with only two minutes to play.

He scored from the spot to cement all three points at home to Southampton and bagged a curler against Watford on Saturday that took all of his technique and footballing acumen. It was the opener Spurs needed to open the floodgates.

He finished the job against Manchester City in October on a classy first-touch finish, and how can anyone ever forget his home double against Chelsea, sending the west Londoners home, tails between their legs.

It was the third game on the bounce that Alli scored two goals. Spurs enjoyed a fruitful and festive Christmas period, thanks again in large part to Alli’s heroics.

He also scored a late equalizer against West Brom to salvage a draw at the Hawthorns along with an opener at the Etihad to give Spurs a lifeline. They eventually drew level with City to take a share of the spoils. Those are just a few of the memorable moments the midfield dynamo has recently provided.

Adding to his already outstanding numbers, Alli has added two goals and two assists in four FA Cup matches.

What others think

Lampard chatted recently with Sky Sports and couldn’t resist adding his two cents about Spurs maestro.

“Dele Alli is a special player,” Lampard told Sky Sports. “He’s better than me when I was 20, that’s for sure! He is like a second striker at the moment, but that makes sense with the way they play.

“He scores goals like he did against Watford, but he’s also in the six-yard box scoring. Too many attacking midfield players get to the penalty spot and stop, don’t go that extra mile.

“We talk about Hazard being the best player in the league, I don’t think Dele Alli is that far away from him.”

Mauricio Pochettino’s influence on the youngster is like that of a father to a child. The gaffer understands how special a talent Alli is.

“He’s special,” said Pochettino in a recent media scrum. “He’s a bit different to all the players that play now at his age. I think he is a unique player. He’s different to another, it’s so difficult to compare to another.”

Graeme Souness piped up about his fondness of the young star, too:

“At 20-years-old, Dele Alli has the world at his feet,” Souness told Sky Sports

“He doesn’t look out of place as a star of the Premier League – a league regarded as the hardest to play in with some of world’s great players.

“How far can he go? Two things will determine how far he can go.

“If he’s unlucky, injuries could play a part, or if he stops turning up every game wanting to learn.

“But he strikes me as someone whose feet are on the ground with the determination to get to the very top.”

It’s not all about the stats

Alli’s attitude and footballing intelligence transcends all the incredible feats he’s already accomplished.

He has a winner’s demeanour that cannot be taught.

A leader in the making, Alli has elevated his game in the most important instances, particularly in the team’s leading scorer’s absence.

A player whose in it for the collective good, Alli always puts his teammates first. He’s feisty, plays an old-school style of football and loves to battle in the trenches, a refreshing change from how many modern midfielders play the game.

Versatile and adaptable, Alli is as well-rounded a footballer you’ll find. He is as happy to play of the floor as he is in the air. A consummate professional, Alli isn’t missing any tools in his toolkit.

Oh, and did I mention he wouldn’t even be legally able to order a drink in the US. Though he’ll only have to wait for two days for that trivial honour.

Alli appears unaffected by the pressure and lofty expectations that follow him everywhere. He has two more goals than Eden Hazard and is immeasurably more influential to his team than Paul Pogba is to Manchester United.

That alone shows how much he’s worth on the current transfer market.

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Spurs need to move heaven and Earth to keep him in north London, which shouldn’t be an immediate concern considering his rosy relationship with the gaffer.

Losing only seven of 64 Premier League games, Alli has developed a fine taste for winning. It’s all he knows, the feeling so familiar that losing is no longer a viable option.

That’s exceptional news for both England and Tottenham.