Tottenham’s Dele Alli has been the subject of some recent criticism, but his pedigree is once again shining through after a string of good performances.
During the past couple of seasons Tottenham’s number 20 has been lauded for breathtaking finishes, extraordinary stats, and individual accolades. But this year (excluding his Madrid heroics) the focus has been squarely placed on negative factors, including his temperamental sportsmanship.
Alli is a victim of his own high standards. The midfielder burst on the scene from League One showing unprecedented consistency for a player of his age. He soon found himself headlining Adidas campaigns, fighting a UFC champion in a BT advert, and, according to a CIES Football Observatory report, finishing only second to Neymar as the world’s most expensive player.
But following two PFA Young Player of the Year award-winning seasons an inevitable temporary slump slightly hampered the start of Alli’s season. Some of the footballing community were ready to topple him from his towering pedestal just as quickly as they had put him there.
The lowest point came after a nasty challenge on Kevin De Bruyne in an overall nightmarish performance against City. Dele was consequently attacked from all angles, with even some Spurs supporters questioning his role at the club. But one man who never strayed, nor will he ever, from Alli’s corner is Mauricio Pochettino.
In Guillem Balague’s book Brave New World, Pochettino, on several occasions, makes reference to Dele’s WhatsApp profile picture: an image of a boy surrounded by a crowd of people all desperate for a piece him. Poch is clearly aware of the challenges such a young talent faces and views himself as both a mentor and coach, highlighted in his entry following Dele’s red card against Gent:
"“I told him, in front of the rest, that these things can happen to anyone and that he hadn’t let us down… Dele never leaves us in the lurch. Now it’s my job to protect him at my press conference.”"
With the media inevitably ready to pounce on any young lion, and an endless supply of rival fans happy to partake in an unfair witch hunt, it is essential that we adopt a greater level of understanding and patience, just like our manager.
Poch’s defence of the player in the media room also stretches to his team selections. Dele has started every league game that he has been available, including the post-City trip to Burnley.
Dele rode his luck again in the early goings, which could turn out to be a pivotal moment in his season. He received an early yellow and minutes later won a penalty.
The ensuing outrage over the two decisions (that ironically were both universally deemed correct) stressed how firmly under the microscope Dele is. I almost expected the priest to stop his Christmas Day sermon to call him a cheat.
Boxing Day saw another majestic display from Dele as he grabbed a goal and a couple of assists. And Pochettino continued to acclaim the former MK Dons man, emphasizing what he has already accomplished in Lillywhite:
"“from day one when he started to play here at Tottenham and achieve, not one other young player of his age [has achieved as much]. Not Cristiano Ronaldo, not Frank Lampard, not Wayne Rooney, massive players, great players – he has achieved more than all those big names.”"
Last night Dele, who was kicked and dragged down to a drenched surface all evening, continued his run. He put in a tireless display which was awarded with a late goal, much to the annoyance of the Liberty’s boo-boys.
In tough conditions Dele proved he is not just a fair weather player; now it is time for everyone associated with Spurs to prove they have his back through thick and thin, and are not fair weather fans.