Today we are taking a look at Tottenham’s young central midfielder, Dele Alli. Arriving from MK Dons, this youngster may only be 19 years old but is determined to secure a first team place under Mauricio Pochettino. He has allegedly impressed enough in pre-season that he won’t be loaned out again, and if he keeps doing stuff like this it’s hard to see him riding the bench for long. So what is Alli likely to bring to the team?
Above all, Alli is a fantastic goalscorer from midfield—something Tottenham have definitely been missing. Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb scored just one solitary goal between them in the league last season. Playing for MK Dons in League One, Alli managed a very impressive 22 league goals in 74 appearances. He was obviously playing against lesser opposition so had more time and more room to take shots on goal, but it is an indication of his shooting ability—and that should transcend League One. Spurs will be glad of anybody who can share some of the goalscoring responsibility with Harry Kane this season. At 6’2, Alli also offers an aerial threat from set pieces (although it is yet to be seen if he is strong enough to beat Premier League defenders to the ball).
Another part missing from Tottenham’s make-up is assists from midfield. Again, Alli could help there, having notched 12 assists—more than any Spurs player managed last season. One of the reasons for his high tally is that he likes to drive from deep, making use of his speed and skilful footwork to get near the box before finding a pass. One of the problems that Pochettino faces is how best to use Alli in midfield. With the emergence of Bentaleb as a dynamic box-to-box midfielder, Spurs had been on the lookout for a more defensive minded player to partner him. However, if they intend on pairing Bentaleb with Alli, one imagines that the former will have to spend more time defending.
The player most likely to lose out in central midfield is probably Moussa Dembelé, who is already behind Mason and Bentaleb—and despite always promising more has never developed the final pass. If Alli can prove better in this regard, he will most likely leapfrog the Belgian. There are question marks over Alli’s mental strength at the top level, however. He plays with a calm confidence, but will he be so cool if Tottenham are losing or struggling?
Alli’s youth won’t be out of place at Tottenham though, the north London club fielding the youngest side in the league on average last season (and set to do so again this coming year). Pochettino’s preferred system of pressing high up the pitch requires a lot of energy, so Alli is sure to get games regardless of his first team status. The demands of the Europa League offers a significant number of games for developing players too.