So, the brave new era of the England national team that is being built under the stewardship of Gareth Southgate did not quite get off to the perfect start – but there were still plenty of positives to take away from Wednesday’s defeat in Dortmund.
In truth, it was very much Lukas Podolski’s night. The 31-year-old rifled in a spectacular winning goal in the second half to cap off what often felt like a celebratory game on his last appearance before retiring from international football. After the final whistle, he was hoisted into the air by his German teammates and received an extensive number of tributes from a variety of assorted individuals. It was a fairy tale evening for Podolski, although England had looked like spoiling the party for long spells of the game.
Southgate, in his first game as the permanent manager of England, deployed a new-look 3-4-3 formation with the pairing of Dele Alli and Adam Lallana playing behind Jamie Vardy, and it was the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder that caught the eye.
Confident, dynamic and with an abundance of quality
With every game that he plays, Dele Alli continues to look more and more like he will develop into one of the best midfielders in world football.
In Dortmund, on Wednesday evening, the Tottenham Hotspur star oozed class, confidence and talent despite being on the losing side. He produced an impressive display that was dynamic and characterised by clever movement and creativity on the ball – only a goal was missing from his performance. Sometimes it is easy to forget that Alli is still only twenty years of age. Against Germany, on foreign soil, he carried himself with a confidence and maturity beyond his years. It is clear that he believes he is well worth his place playing against illustrious opposition.
When he was in possession of the ball he moved with grace and confidence, releasing smart passes to teammates and creating little pockets of space in which to play. This was exemplified by a lovely piece of skill on the right side of the German eighteen-yard box, where Alli cradled the ball with his instep and pulled it beyond the helpless Jonas Hector in a Ronaldinho-esque style. It was a beautiful moment when talent, intelligence, creativity and confidence all converged at the same time.
Alli is far from the finished article, there was a moment when he wasted possession with an ambitious backheel and he should have done better when he was presented with a goal scoring opportunity in the second period, but he looks like a compelling footballer. The young starlet was partnered with Adam Lallana behind Jamie Vardy in attack and the trio provided creativity, energy and movement to ensure that the German backline were far from comfortable. In short, the signs are promising.
Alli is central to England’s future
Dele Alli produced a performance against Germany that exemplifies the dynamism, movement, creativity, intelligence and quality that England will require if they are to challenge at major tournaments in the future.
The 3-4-3 formation that Gareth Southgate deployed in Dortmund looked far more fluid, dangerous and effective than the rigid 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1 systems utilised by his predecessors. It is a style of play that perfectly suits Alli, providing the starlet with the freedom to drift into dangerous positions in the final third and combine with teammates to create goal scoring opportunities. The 20-year-old already looks like one of England’s best players – and he is still developing.
Wednesday was a night in which Germany said farewell to their past with Lukas Podolski’s retirement. But Dele Alli showed us a brief glimpse of England’s future – and it certainly looks bright.
Feature Image: All Rights Reserved Oliver Oliu (Oliver Oliu)