Dele Alli has gained attention as a 19-year-old wonderkid when he dropped 19 goals and assists in the Premier League in 33 games in the 15/16 season. He was the original Phil Foden and the original English generational talent.
However, as recently as 2019, his form and performances started worsening and became inconsistent. From dropping 56 goals and assists in 60 Premier League games from 2015-2017 to barely being able to create a chance from open play in 2021, what has gone wrong for Dele Alli?
Let’s take a look at his injury history. According to transfermarkt.us, Dele has missed 15 club games from 2013 to 2015, averaging 3 games a season. Not too bad for a start. However, Dele has missed 23 club games, or 103 days of football, in the 18/19 season alone from 6 injuries. One particular injury was a horror tackle by Jordan Pickford when Spurs visited Goodison Park for a Boxing Day fixture in the Premier League. As observed from watching Dele’s newly adapted playing style, Dele was a runner and ball carrier during counterattacks before the 18/19 season. However, ever since those injuries, we have barely seen Dele play as he used to in his prime. His physicality has been affected by those injuries he attained in the 18/19 season.
One other possible reason is the departure of the Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen in January 2020. Dele Alli has not scored an open play Premier League goal since he faced Norwich City in January 2020, the same period as the January transfer window when Eriksen left Tottenham. One of Dele’s key attributes was his intelligent off-the-ball movements which was very often spotted by the Great Dane. These two players had some telepathy that made them work well together at Spurs.
Many people, including me, have been saying it’s Dele’s attitude and mindset. I wholeheartedly agree with this. In Tottenham Hotspurs’ Amazon documentary All or Nothing, it can be seen that Jose Mourinho has often criticized Dele’s lazy attitude in training by saying “Dele, I know you are a f###ing lazy guy.” In one scene, it can be noted that when the Spurs squad was analyzing their training video, Jose has said “Fastball. And fastball in the space.” when the ball was played by Dele. It can be inferred that Dele’s passing was too slow and Jose needed him to release the ball faster. Many Spurs fans might blame Jose Mourinho for this. However, in a private meeting between Jose and Dele, Jose has told Dele that he will look back on his career in the future and regret it if he doesn’t fulfill his potential. It’s up to you to decide whether Dele has responded well to that comment.
Another possible reason is the rise of the South Korean Heung-Min Son. Son has been dropping more than 30 goals and assists per season in all competitions since the 16/17 season and has started to establish himself as a proper world-class player since the 18/19 season after his masterclasses in the UEFA Champions League. Coincidentally, Dele has experienced a drop in form since the 18/19 season after his injury crisis. Son’s incredible form in the 18/19 season has made Pochettino change the formation so that Son (and Kane when fit) plays as a striker, which made Dele play slightly deeper than he usually did in his prime. Because Dele is not used to playing deeper, his form slowly deteriorated.
In my honest opinion, I think Dele’s career at Spurs is finished and should have moved on in January 2021 when Pochettino’s Paris Saint Germain has offered to loan him in for 6 months. Mourinho, PSG, and Dele have all agreed for the move to take place but Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has blocked the move. If he was allowed to leave, he might have found his old form like Jesse Lingard did when he was loaned out to West Ham United in the same period and re-establish himself into the squad. Tottenham should cash in on Dele Alli before his contact in 2024 runs down as his market value is not growing any much.
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