It has been a frustrating 12 months for Dele Alli. He would have watched on over the summer and thought he should have been involved with the England squad. The Tottenham midfielder played a big part at the 2018 World Cup, but he was a long way from selection for Euro 2020. Jose Mourinho ostracised him at White Hart Lane. Although Ryan Mason brought him back into the fold, there was a confidence lacking from from his game.
Nuno Espirito Santo will be hoping that he can reignite the fire within Alli, as he still has a lot to offer Tottenham. At the age of 25, he should have his peak years ahead of him and there is still time for a career recovery. Unlike many of his peers, Alli should be fresh heading into the 2021/22 campaign. He has barely played any football over the last 12 months and he will have a full pre-season under his belt.
In the early pre season matches, Alli has been used as a central midfielder with different roles in and out of possession. When Tottenham have the ball, he pushes on to support the striker as a number ten. Meanwhile, without the ball, he drops into a midfield three and presses the opposition midfielders. There seems to be a desire to impress his new manager. With many still to return to training, the former MK Dons man has a chance to force his way into Nuno’s plans.
Last season, Alli had his least impressive season to date. He played just 619 minutes, contributing a single assist in the Premier League. For a player that usually gets more than ten goal contributions each season, this was a significant decline. For those looking in from the outside, it is easy to blame Mourinho for this drop off. The pair didn’t seem to understand each other.
Mourinho likes hard working players that can understand their tactical role within his system. Alli isn’t a system player, as he needs to be given the license to roam and express himself in the final third. If he can be given this, he can perform at a very high level. If he doesn’t feel the trust of his manager, he becomes ineffective and that was the case under Mourinho, especially within their last few months of working together.
There is now a fresh slate for Alli. He is well liked within the squad and Daniel Levy wants to see him return to his best form in a Tottenham shirt. There has been opportunity to sell or loan him, but Spurs have kept him at the club. It is likely that Nuno has been told to reintegrate the 25-year-old.
Although it is difficult to put too much weight on pre-season, it is clear that Alli is being given the opportunity to earn a first-team spot. Harry Kane is likely to be missing for the first few weeks of the season. He could even be moved on.
Alli has the goal-scoring ability to replace a large portion of Kane’s goals if he does move on. It is a key 12 months for the England international. He can’t afford another year of regression. The 25-year-old has the talent to turn his form around. He now needs to show that he has the mentality to match it.