Despite being only 21-years-old, Dele Alli has received criticism from the media for his perceived drop-off in form over the 2017/18 season. It came at a bad time for the midfielder ahead of the World Cup, but considering he remains a young player, a period of struggle should have been expected at some point. It is true that the England international hasn’t been at his best and has had some poor matches. However, a return of eight goals and nine assists to date remains very impressive and marks him as one of the best Premier League players in the final third. In fact, he has had a hand in one more goal than team-mate Christian Eriksen, which does show the impact he has still managed to provide.
This weekend’s performance came at a good time for Alli, as he had been left out of the starting eleven in both of England’s recent friendlies. Gareth Southgate has moved to a 3-4-2-1 formation with Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling being preferred in the attacking roles behind the striker. Although there is a lot of football to be played before the World Cup, the 21-year-old has seen a regression in form over the past season and that looked to have put his starting place in Russia under threat. On Sunday, the Tottenham midfielder offered a timely reminder of his ability with a match-winning performance in a crucial game.
It was the midfielder’s first brace since January 2017 and that came against the same opposition. Alli seems to enjoy playing against Chelsea and that was clear on Sunday. During the match, he was impressive in nearly everything that he did and worked hard to support Son Heung-min as the lone striker. In the build-up to the Tottenham equaliser, he did well to keep the ball alive and although his involvement didn’t directly lead to the goal, it was an important contribution.
He did his bit for the team, as shown by four successful aerial duels and two completed tackles. Although he isn’t known for his defensive quality, he has learned to work hard since moving to Tottenham and it is important that he does otherwise the team will have to carry him.
Against Chelsea, it was his positioning and composure that stood out most. For the first goal, his anticipation saw him run clear of the opposition back four to get on the end of an excellent through ball from Eric Dier. It is one thing to make the movement, but it was his composure and technique that led to the goal. An excellent first touch saw the midfielder bring the ball under control and provide an angle to score past Willy Cabellero. For those suggesting that the 21-year-old was suffering with a lack of confidence, this goal showed the opposite. His second goal that put the result beyond doubt showed impressive composure again, as he moved the ball from right to left before finishing coolly.
The coming weeks will be interesting, as Alli will now be looking to finish the season strongly and score the goals required to secure a place in the England team for the World Cup. In addition to that, there is an opportunity to win his first major trophy in professional football as Tottenham are in the semi-finals of the FA Cup. There may have been questions regarding his role for Spurs heading into the match at Wembley against Manchester United, but they have now banished. The 21-year-old is clearly one of the most talented young players in world football, but Pochettino realises that there will be times when his influence drops. The Argentine has stuck by his player and is now reaping the rewards.