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Tottenham Hotspur

What is behind Dele Alli’s dramatic loss of form for Tottenham Hotspur?

Rob Meech

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Dele Alli
Photo: Reuters

Few players have enjoyed a rise as meteoric as Dele Alli’s. Plucked from the obscurity of League One football with MK Dons in 2015, for the meagre sum of £5 million, the 21-year-old has earned rave reviews for his performances at Tottenham Hotspur.

It didn’t take him long to break into the England set-up either, where he has become one of the first names on the team-sheet.

Despite not playing as a striker, Alli netted 18 Premier League goals last season and formed a deadly partnership with hot-shot Harry Kane, which was a major reason for Spurs’ runners-up finish.

Fast-forward to the present day however, and the narrative is somewhat different. Alli has struggled to reproduce his best form and, like Tottenham in general, failed to live up the high expectations placed upon him last summer.

Spurs are seventh position in the table – one point behind Burnley – and despite their praiseworthy efforts to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League, their hopes of domestic honours are already over. Many factors are at play, such as the relocation to Wembley while the new White Hart Lane is built.

So key was Alli last season that his drop in form has undoubtedly contributed to Spurs’ current malaise. He has only three top-flight goals to his name this term, which is considerably fewer than at this stage 12 months ago.

But it’s not just in front of goal where his influence has diminished. Alli has been dogged by accusations of diving and, more worryingly, ill-discipline. Although he has never been sent-off in the Premier League, the midfield schemer is notorious for being hot-headed.

He retrospectively received a three-match ban for violent conduct against West Bromwich Albion at the tail end of the 2015/16 campaign. It ruled him out of the denouement of the season and Tottenham’s faint title hopes vanished in his absence.

His fiery streak was evident again in last weekend’s 4-1 defeat by table-topping Manchester City. Alli lunged in late on Kevin de Bruyne and was lucky to escape unpunished. De Bruyne, meanwhile, was fortunate not to sustain a serious ankle injury. To compound matters for Alli, the Belgian scored City’s crucial second goal just minutes later.

Perhaps in endeavouring to turn around his poor form, Alli is striving too hard and becoming frustrated. This is manifesting itself in his on-pitch demeanour and resulting in reckless challenges.

Although he is a highly competitive individual who performs best when he is playing on the edge, there is a balance to be struck. It’s one that hasn’t been found this season. Alli, and his manager Mauricio Pochettino, will both be acutely aware of that.

Nonetheless, there is no denying Alli remains one of the brightest prospects in English football. It is easy to forget he is still several months shy of his 22nd birthday, with fewer than 100 Premier League appearances to his name.

Young players are by nature inconsistent, but his professionalism off the pitch will stand him in good stead to overcome the inevitable setbacks.

Throughout his career at Tottenham, Alli has shown he is a footballer of the highest quality, one around whom Pochettino and England manager Gareth Southgate can build their teams.

Yes, he is suffering from a dip which is symbolic of Tottenham’s travails. But as the saying goes, form is temporary, class is permanent. Both Alli and Tottenham will come through this tough spell if they keep the courage of their convictions.

Rob is a freelance writer, specialising in football, who previously worked as a sports journalist at the Dorset Echo. A long-standing AFC Bournemouth supporter, Rob can often be found on the terraces at the Vitality Stadium. Follow him on Twitter - @RobMeech

FA Cup

Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham – Lucas Moura shines despite disappointing day for Spurs

Jake Jackman

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Tottenham

Tottenham are going to have to rely on a replay for the second successive round as they conceded a dramatic late equaliser to Rochdale. It was a reminder of the magic that the FA Cup still possesses and it will provide a useful cash injection for the League One club. Spurs opted to make several changes and rest key players, but they selected a team that should have progressed on the day.

Ian Henderson scored in the first-half to give Dale a first-half lead and it was deserved. Keith Hill’s team played good football and went toe-to-toe against their more illustrious opposition.

Lucas Moura and Harry Kane scored to put Tottenham into a 2-1 lead, but that wasn’t the end of the goal-scoring as Steve Davies scored to take the tie to a replay. Here are three talking points from Spotland:

Lucas Moura’s performance showed why Tottenham signed him

It was a signing that came out of left-field, as Tottenham prefer to do their transfer business in the summer. However, this opportunity was too good to turn down as they were given the chance to sign a proven Brazilian international. He had fallen on tough times at PSG and rarely featured this season, but he proved why the club signed him on Sunday.

The Brazilian wasn’t afraid of the fight and was up for the test offered by League One opposition. Every time he got on the ball, it looked like he could make something happen, as shown by his seven dribbles completed.

He had a touch of class that allowed him to stand out from the rest of the players on the pitch and if he can consistently perform at that level, he will turn out to be a great signing.

His movement was superb, as he regularly found pockets of space to exploit. Interestingly, he won five aerial duels and that shows that he has quickly adjusted to English football. It was Lucas that scored the equaliser mid-way through the second half with a confident finish. He will have played himself into Mauricio Pochettino’s plans for the coming weeks.

Rochdale impressed on their day in the spotlight

They were written off before a ball was kicked as they were facing one of the best teams in the country. Rochdale are currently rock-bottom of League One and 11 points from safety, albeit with four matches in hand. They laid a new pitch ahead of this match and the players adapted to it well, showing that they can play good football.

Callum Camps and Andrew Cannon impressed in the centre of the park, while their two wily experienced strikers got the goals. Ian Henderson was a tireless worker in the final third and put the Tottenham defenders under pressure.

He snatched at a couple of chances in the first-half, but he remained cool when another chance came his way and scored the opening goal.

It will be a tough ask for them to go to Wembley, but they can go there with no fear as they have nothing to lose. The tie will give them an injection of money that the club needs, especially if they are to suffer relegation this season.

Toby Alderweireld looks a long way from his best

The Tottenham defence didn’t look as assured as they usually do and both of their centre-backs struggled at times during the match.

Alderweireld was left out of the trip to Juventus and there were some supporters that questioned that decision. However, he looked short of match fitness against Rochdale and was arguably at fault for the late equaliser.

The Belgian international looked rusty and his decision making was not great. He picked up a yellow card for a rash tackle and that is one example of that. Juan Foyth played alongside Alderweireld and his inexperience showed when Rochdale did attack.

For Alderweireld, he wants to be back in the first-team and that is eventually where he will be, but he isn’t at the level required to be starting right now. Tottenham are fighting on multiple fronts and they can’t afford to have any players that aren’t at 100%. He is returning from a serious injury and he will need time to get back to his best.

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Tottenham Hotspur

Why Tottenham have proven they could afford to lose Toby Alderweireld this summer

With speculation surrounding Toby Alderweireld’s Tottenham future, recent performances have proven the club could cope without him, writes Jake Jackman.

Jake Jackman

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Toby Alderweireld
Photo: Reuters

Tottenham are facing another contract stalemate as Toby Alderweireld is thought to be considering his future with the club.

The Telegraph report that his future has been cast in fresh doubt after he was left behind and not selected for the Champions League match against Juventus.

The Belgian international didn’t make the trip to Turin and considering he returned to first-team action last week, he is unlikely to be pleased at his omission.

Although the article speculates on the centre-back’s future, there is no evidence to suggest Alderweireld is looking for a move.

However, he is yet to agree a new deal and given the interest in him, a transfer could be on his mind.

Tottenham play a dangerous game when it comes to their contracts, as they refuse to pay what their competition is offering.

That is one key reason why they are at risk of losing their best players and speculation is taken more seriously by supporters as a result.

The Express reported last summer that Kyle Walker doubled his wages when he joined Manchester City.

Although money won’t be the main motivating factor behind a player leaving Spurs, it is certainly a factor.

Mauricio Pochettino didn’t look too worried during his pre-match press-conference, suggesting Alderweireld needed time to recover from his serious injury.

He isn’t ready for a huge game yet and the club have made the decision to leave him behind to benefit all parties long-term.

The Telegraph report the following quotes from the Argentine:

“It was a massive injury that we needed to be cautious over because we cannot put at risk his career. We designed a plan from day one to provide him the best route to recovery and be stronger than before.

“Of course, we are sorry for him because when you miss some games like Arsenal or the Champions League that we have worked a lot to try to play… I can understand.

“And we are frustrated too, because when you cannot play it is difficult to accept. The player always thinks he is fit, but it is our responsibility to take the best decision.

“He will be part of the team next Sunday against Rochdale (in the FA Cup) and, again, we are going to assess him day by day.”

There is every chance that Pochettino is being honest, but as the defender played against Newport County, it is known that he is available.

The manager has been reluctant in the past to rush players back from serious injuries.

Erik Lamela has had to accept his role as a bench player while he builds up his fitness.

Meanwhile, Danny Rose wasn’t immediately restored to the starting eleven after his time out on the sidelines.

That said, the Alderweireld’s future has been reported on and that begs the question, could Tottenham afford to lose him?

Since moving to Tottenham, Toby Alderweireld has established himself as one of the best defenders in the Premier League, if not Europe.

There won’t be a shortage of options for him if he does decide to push for an exit from the club.

However, Spurs are now in a position in which they don’t need to cave at each and every one of the defender’s demands in the talks over a new contract.

Now, they have proved they are able to cope without him.

During their last three Premier League fixtures, wins against Manchester United and Arsenal sandwich a hard-fought draw against Liverpool at Anfield.

They have taken seven points from arguably three of their hardest fixtures of the season and conceded only two goals in the process.

That is hugely impressive and the absence of Alderweireld evidently was not felt, with their opponents managing a combined 21 shots across the three matches.

Considering they were playing three of the best attacks in the Premier League, that record is incredible.

There will be many taking the view that Tottenham will be even more formidable when Alderweireld returns to the line-up, but a more controversial stance would be that the team no longer need the Belgian.

Although the club will want to keep hold of him, it has been proven that he isn’t as integral to this Tottenham team as many previously considered him to be.

The progression of Davinson Sanchez and reliability of Jan Vertonghen means that Pochettino has two other quality options, while Eric Dier is an able deputy.

Alderweireld will be back in the starting eleven soon as he has too much quality to sit on the sidelines, but he can no longer go into these contract negotiations and talk up his worth as recent evidence proves that the team can thrive without him.

The departure of Kyle Walker last summer showed that Tottenham can be ruthless with players making ultimatums and progress without them.

It would be a shame if the Belgian defender did leave at the end of the season, but Spurs could recover from it.

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Champions League

Juventus 2-2 Tottenham: Mousa Dembele back to his very best in Juventus draw

Jake Jackman

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Tottenham

Tottenham earned an excellent result in the Champions League as they fought back from 2-0 down to earn a credible draw against Juventus. The Serie A team have a lot more experience in this competition, but they found wanting for game management on Tuesday, as they let a dominant position slip after an impressive opening 10 minutes.

They quickly went up by two goals after a Gonzalo Higuain brace, but the Argentine will feel disappointed at the end of the game as he could have reinstated the lead before half-time. However, his second penalty smashed against the bar. After the break, Spurs were very good and were deserving of their equaliser. Here are three talking points from the Allianz Stadium:

Tottenham have fight to go with their quality

If the team spirit of this Tottenham team was ever in doubt, it isn’t any longer as they showed great belief to fight back from 2-0 down against one of the biggest clubs in Europe. They couldn’t have had a worse start as lazy defending allowed Gonzalo Higuain to score an excellent goal. There was a hint of offside, but the visitors were switched off and not aware of the danger.

Another goal quickly followed and at that stage, it looked like it could be a thrashing. However, the players rallied and started to get back in the game by doing the simple things well. In previous seasons, their North London rivals Arsenal have been embarrassed at this stage of the competition and it looked like a similar fate was waiting for Tottenham, but they didn’t fall into the same state of paralysis.

Mousa Dembele was key to the turnaround, as he was distributing the ball well from the centre of the park. His ability to carry it forward five or ten yards was crucial in putting Juventus on the back foot. Christian Eriksen was displaying the creativity that he shows regularly in the Premier League and Harry Kane recovered from a poor miss to get on the score-sheet. Outside of the opening ten minutes, Tottenham were the better team and they have a great chance of progressing to the next round after this result.

Gonzalo Higuain’s career was summed up in 45 minutes

The Argentine international has been on the verge of being a world class player for a number of years, but he regularly fails to make it count on the big stage. It was shaping up to be his night early on as he scored a brace in the opening ten minutes. He looked in the mood and showed a clinical edge in front of goal that threatened to put the tie to bed.

However, as always with Higuain, he missed a crucial chance at an important moment of the game. Seconds before half-time, Douglas Costa did very well to win a penalty for his team with a superb run into the Tottenham box. After scoring from the spot earlier in the match, the former Napoli striker stepped up and smashed an effort against the bar.

It was a confident effort from the forward, as he put his foot through the ball, but the accuracy wasn’t there. If he scored the penalty, it likely put the match beyond Tottenham as they would have went in to half-time with low spirits. As it worked out, they went in with momentum and they used that to great effect in the second half. Higuain has had a habit of letting his team down when it matters most and that was true again on Tuesday night.

Mousa Dembele is back to his best

The central midfielder earned rave reviews at the weekend as he dominated the middle of the park in the North London derby. It was an excellent performance and Tottenham needed a similar display if they were to gain a positive result in Italy. Juventus are renowned for being well-organised and difficult to break down. If the visitors were to get anything from the game, they needed to compete in the central areas and Dembele was key to that objective.

The 30-year-old is able to deliver in both halves of the pitch and he did on Tuesday. He made five ball recoveries and was regularly seen breaking up the play high up the pitch. The midfielder’s best attribute is his power when running with the ball and that was on display at the Allianz Stadium. He completed six dribbles and was near impossible to dispossess when he was advancing up the pitch.

In addition to his ball-carrying, Dembele was effective in distributing the ball, as evidenced by his pass success rate of 95%. He made two key passes and showed a creativity that was perhaps lacking at the weekend. The Belgian international isn’t the perfect midfielder, but he is a well-rounded one and is crucial for Tottenham when he is in this vein of form. They will need him to deliver a similar performance in three weeks’ time at Wembley.

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