Is this really a make or break season for Tottenham's Dele Alli?
“He’s doing it tremendously well. From a young age, the weight on his shoulders, he deals with it in his stride. It’s fantastic to see someone just playing football with a smile on their face and enjoying every moment of it.”
Speaking to Sky Sports, Kyle Walker’s praise of Tottenham team-mate Dele Alli comes as little surprise considering the 20-year-old’s incredible rise to prominence since his arrival to White Hart Lane. Having arrived from MK Dons in the 2015 winter transfer window, before making his first Premier League start against Manchester United in August, the Englishman has been a revelation for Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
Following a debut campaign in which he was named PFA Young Player of the Year, Alli has experienced a slower-than-anticipated start to 2016/17. Nonetheless, he has experienced an upturn in form in Tottenham’s recent fixtures – scoring in the club’s latest victory, over Manchester City – with his side being the only remaining unbeaten team in the Premier League this season.
Suggesting this is a make or break season for Alli, Walker, who was himself recognised as the competition’s best young player in 2011/12, said: “It’s vital. I can remember when I got the Young Player of the Year, to follow it on the next season makes you a very good player or a very average player.”
Already the signs are looking good for Alli. Not only is he matching his scoring rate of last term, averaging 0.3 successful strikes per game, but he has also increased his creative output (from 1.7, to 1.9 key passes per game) and reduced the frequency at which he is culpable for losing his side possession (2.5 to 2.1 per appearance).
“When he does express himself in the final third you can’t have a go at players for doing that, because more times than not it does come off. We do get a lot of goals from that. Dele does fantastically well for Tottenham.”
Walker clearly recognises Alli’s creativity in the final third, which at times proves impossible for the opposition to handle. However, he also acknowledges the fact Tottenham’s adversaries will soon grow savvy to his methods of trickery, and as a consequence, the youngster’s potential threat could become nullified:
“Everyone is going to do their homework on him, he’s a threat so you’re going to do your homework and try to stop him at source but Dele is an intelligent boy, he’s streetwise.”
After the disappointment of England’s displays at the European championships in France, there will be an added weight of expectation on Alli to impress for Tottenham this term. Ultimately he will be judged on his bounce-back-ability, which will be translated through his form throughout the next 10 months. As such, this could be considered a make or break season.
Nonetheless, at such a young age, and with very limited top flight experience, Alli has proven he is a force to be reckoned with, and without doubt, English football’s brightest prospect. Scoring 10 goals in your debut Premier League season is no mean feat, and from his improving form in the last few weeks, there is every chance he will better this total this time round.
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