Dele Alli has had to withdraw from the England squad for Tuesday’s friendly match against Switzerland due to a slight knock. BBC Sport report that he picked up a minor muscle strain during the recent Nations League loss to Spain.
There will be doubts about how serious the issue is. In all likelihood, Alli will be available for Tottenham at the weekend and this was only a precaution. However, the news regarding a setback for the midfielder could be a blessing in disguise for Mauricio Pochettino.
The Argentine is facing a selection headache on a weekly basis, despite Tottenham failing to sign a single player during the summer. It was thought that this would leave Pochettino short on options, but that hasn’t been the case during the early stages.
Lucas Moura signed for the club at the beginning of the season and his emergence at the beginning of the new campaign has made it difficult to find a balanced eleven. This has been made even more difficult by the return of Toby Alderweireld. Spurs will want to keep the Belgian defender at the club, but to agree a new contract, he needs to be given regular minutes.
For that to happen, Pochettino has had to revert to a back three, as both Davinson Sanchez and Jan Vertonghen have earned a starting berth. The difficulty for the Tottenham manager is that leaves fewer midfield spaces. Lucas, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli all expect to be selected behind Harry Kane. That leaves room for only one defensive-minded midfielder.
Another consequence has been Eriksen being moved into a deeper role. The Danish international remains an important player, but there is no denying that he is less effective as a result. The return of Son Heung-min from international duty will only complicate matters.
As the season progresses, there will be an opportunity for rotation as Tottenham tackle multiple competitions. However, Pochettino needs to re-implement balance to the starting eleven as they have struggled to dominate matches in the way they did last season. Eriksen being moved into a more advanced role will help.
It would be harsh to suggest Alli has been a problem. The 22-year-old has been a revelation since breaking into the Tottenham team and he remains a crucial player. That said, in the short-term, it could be considered a blessing in disguise if he was to sit out of a couple of games, as Pochettino could select a more balanced team.