Tottenham: What I Want to See the Next Time I See Dele Alli Play

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 04: Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur talks to Jose Mourinho, Manager October 04, 2020 (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 04: Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur talks to Jose Mourinho, Manager October 04, 2020 (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images) /
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Dele Alli, Tottenham for England
July 7, 2018; Samara, Russia; England player Dele Alli (20) celebrates after scoring a goal against Sweden in the quarterfinals during the FIFA World Cup 2018 at Samara Stadium. Mandatory Credit: PA Images/Sipa USA via USA TODAY Sports /

Five Point Plan for Dele’s Success

1.      Defend with Conviction

With 5-points to our plan, there are many points we could have started with, but the idea of defending with conviction ought to be at the top of the list. Defending with conviction encompasses several concepts and provides the evidence Mourinho needs to know who you are playing for. It is no coincidence that Mourinho talked about Bergwijn playing himself to ‘near death’ on the weekend, that is what he wants of all his players.

To play regularly in a Mourinho team you must do your part defensively. As we have seen with the deep lying midfielders, that part defensively can be enormous and takes tremendous stamina and dedication, not two things Dele is known for. That said, he does have the body and temperament to be an effective defender, he just need commit.

Even is playing in a more attacking position, he must be willing to tackle the ball and work to cut angles and protect those behind him. While we know Dele has no problem rotating and being fluid within the attack, can he do it defensively with the focus and consistency Mourinho is looking for is the question. Whether Dele plays 20 minutes or an hour, he must lay it all on the line defensively.

2.      Play Sound, Fundamental Football

At his best, Dele Alli is a creative problem for defensives and a catalyst and converter on offense. However, there have been times when Dele has fallen a bit too in love with the flicks, and touches, and flashy play over the smart footballing move. Think back about how many times you saw Harry Kane trying to flick the ball in his hold-up play or Steven Bergwijn, or Heung-Min Son, or Tanguy Ndombele.

All four attacking players had to provide hold-up play against City to maintain the little possession Spurs were able to steal from the Cityzens. Dele has not shown he is willing to do this consistently. Too often he resorts to touches and flicks, which can work but often lead to a loss of possession. There is one thing with one touch soccer, there is another with poor passes. The occasional flick is one thing having it as part of your common repertoire is just lazy.

Dele needs to be able to hold the ball and move it quickly in possession. Too often if it were not a flick the ball would just slow or even stop with Dele. There should be that in between game, where you are able to touch the ball once or twice, but it happens quickly and crisply and then the ball is gone. Dele must demonstrate he can be a part of Mourinho passing game to get more time with Tottenham.

3.      Make the Runs

Besides defending and working efficiently on the ball, Jose Mourinho likes players to make runs. Often those runs are simply running to create space, but that is the point. To be on the pitch right now at Tottenham you must be willing to work for each other. That means making the run and not getting the ball, then making the run again. All the while not complaining, not being upset you ran, but being alert and ready so the third time when you make the run you convert the chance.

In other words, if you are going to stand around offensively without the ball, you are going to do it on the sideline or in the stands. If you think about Son’s goal against City, so much of it was movement and spacing. The movement of Kane and spacing of Bergwijn got the defense where we needed it. On the second goal, it was Bergwijn making the diagonal in front of Kane but behind Son that pull the defenders over and created the space for Lo Celso to enter.

One of the most effective aspects of Dele Alli’s game is his timing on runs into the box. He needs to expand that part of his game into the timing of his runs all over the field. Sometimes you get the ball and sometimes you get the man, either way Tottenham wins. For Dele to play when he gets on the field, he must do the work off the ball to make it happen.

4.      Play Hard and Be Positive

Dele Alli knows what he needs to do. While we have three points already, only 1 is really football related in terms of making sound passes and even that comes back down to the idea that Dele is a bit lazy. Mourinho blasted Dele in All or Nothing and he laughed. Jose called him into his office about making a choice and he smiled. Now after a month of not playing I imagine Dele is neither laughing nor smiling a ton.

What is fun, is playing a sport for a living and making millions doing it. When he is on the pitch, Dele needs to play hard, as if his life and livelihood depend on it. This hard work is to be found in the defending we are asking for. This hard work is found in being an active part of the passing game. This hard work is part of making the runs and only sometimes getting the ball.

Most of all, this hard work is fun, as you are playing a game and as such you need to be positive. Sometimes you press and not everyone is engaged, you cannot make a face. Sometimes you make a run and do not get the ball, you cannot throw up your arms. Sometimes things do not get the call and you cannot just yell at the ref. If you notice, these are all things we do not see a ton of anymore with Spurs.

There are no sour faces or arms flailing because someone did not get the ball, because next time they might. What we have right now is a team and if you are not going to be positive, you cannot be part of it. Either you are on Mourinho’s Tottenham bus or you are not, there is not halfway riders.

5.      Dele Needs to be Dele

Dele Alli at his best is not a plodding midfielder but a vigorous attacking player who annoys the other team. He bites at their heals and makes opponents long for Lamela. When Dele Alli is truly Dele Alli he is unplayable and can be a dominating force for good with Tottenham. The question is if Dele Alli can truly ever be Dele Alli again.

When Dele was younger, it was the natural talent, the naivety, the tenacity of youth that was driving his game. However, Dele has gotten older – but certainly not old at only 24 – and his game has not evolved with him. After hitting double figures in goals for four straight seasons and in assists for three straight for Tottenham, Dele has not hit double figures in either season since 2017-18.

To get back to the heights he once hit Dele should do the work off the field and then when he gets the chance, he must show that work on the field. If Dele can commit himself to team and show that with his performance, whether for 30 minutes or an hour, he will get more chances. If he cannot show that spirit, commitment, and drive, then he likely will be heading out on transfer in the summer. Until he gets that opportunity all Dele can do is work hard and stay positive and be ready when the time comes.