Player Focus – Dele Alli

What a rise to the top Dele Alli has been in the past 12 months. In January of 2015 he was playing League 1 football, in the 3rd tier of English football. Fast forward to January 2016, he’s starting for a top Premier League side who are potentially pushing for the league title, a full English international and has already scored for his country on his first start for his country, an absolute rocket against France to open the scoring. Since making his debut for Tottenham on the opening day of the season as a sub in the 1-0 loss to Manchester United, he was been the Premier League’s stand-out player this season with 6 goals and 4 assists in the league, the latest of his goals being a Dennis Bergkamp-esque wonder goal. He received the goal from a Chrstian Eriksen knock on, Dele took a touch, flicked over and past the helpless Mile Jedinak and volleyed into the bottom left corner to stun Selhurst Park and cause the away crowd into a state of euphoria. With both Lampard and Gerrard both now out of the England frame and their midfield looking woefully depleted of actual quality, the Spurs man is touted to be England’s saviour. There’s a surprise, a new England saviour. Despite the failed attempts before, Dele Alli looks like real deal and at 19 and already an international, he has the opportunity to be a staple of the England side.

Bamidele Jermaine Alli or more commonly known as Dele Alli, was born on the 11th of April 1996 in Milton Keynes to a Nigerian father and English mother. He grew up in the area and subsequently joined the MK dons at the age of 11, getting his first taste of first team during the 12/13 season after impressive performances in youth levels for 5 years. Dele made his debut as a 16 year old against non-league side Cambridge City in a 0-0 draw in the FA cup in the form of  being a 64th minute substitute. His first touch as a professional footballer was a back heel pass, an early sign of the player of the type of player he would develop into a supreme technically-gifted central midfielder. He scored his first goal a week later against Cambridge in the replay in a 6-1 rout, in which he scored on his first start. He later made his league debut against Coventry City and made his only other league appearance was on the last day of the season but the 2013/14 season saw the U18 England international feature more for the Dons, as he amassed 37 appearances in all competitions, scoring 7 goals and 4 assists  but did suffer a torn ligament which meant he missed 5 weeks of the season. 2014/15 saw Dele Alli thrust into the first team following the departure of Gleeson to Birmingham City to pair up with Darren Potter as his central midfield partner. He started well, being a bright spark in their early push for promotion, as well as scoring his first goal of the season against Peterborough United,  in which he scored a tap-in after on-loan striker Will Grigg’s deflected shot. He also was instrumental in MK Dons’ historic win over Manchester United in which they beat the 20 times league champions 4-0 at home in the Capital One Cup. Dele carried on his early season form as he curled in an absolute beauty in a 2-0 win against Crawley Town. On the 18th of September the Englishman signed a new contract which tied him down to the summer of 2017. Due to his great performances down in League One, he caught the attention of a lot of Premier League suitors such as Manchester United and Tottenham, European clubs like Bayern Munich as well as interest from the club he grew up supporting, Liverpool. 2 days after signing the contract he more than justified the club’s decision to tie him down, as he scored a hat trick and assisted a goal in a 6-1 victory over Crewe Alexandra, in which he was awarded the man of the match award. In January, he was constantly linked with both Liverpool and Tottenham, eventually signing for the latter in the final hours of the window on the 2nd of February for a initial fee of £5m. He was immediately loaned back Milton Keynes Dons, in which he scored a further 4 goals for the clubs before leaving the club for North London. Dele Alli finished his most prolific season as a player with 16 goals and 11 assists, mainly from central midfield as well as helped the Dons to a 2nd place finish and promotion to the Championship. Following the end of the Championship season Dele Alli went to link up with his new team mates for Spurs’ preseason. He made his competitive debut for the club in the 1-0 away defeat to Manchester United as a substitute in the last 13 minutes. He scored his first goal for the club against Leicester City, which ended 1-1. After a string of strong performances at club level, he was called up by England and made his debut as a sub against Estonia. He then started against France, scoring a wonderstrike on his first start for his country. In January, he signed a new deal to keep him at WHL until 2021 on the 12th of January. A fortnight later he scored the aforementioned Bergkamp-eaque goal against Crystal Palace and is threatening to start for England at the Euros, who will be 20 by the time the tournament starts in France.

Dele-Alli-graphic

An info graphic showcasing Alli’s season so far in January.

Often compared to his childhood hero Steven Gerrard, Dele Alli has all the makings to replace the former Liverpool man in the heart of the England midfield and become a vital cog in the England team. The former MK Dons man is a very talented and technically gifted central midfielder, being able to be a force going forward as well as being able to track back and provide a good play-breaking tackle. Dele Alli also has extremely good stamina and this only enhances his game, as he is one of the most hard working players in the league in terms of distance covered as he covered 231.69km by February, an average of 11.92km per 90 minutes. He also has quite a large stature standing at 6’2 for someone which such a warm demeanour, as shown by his constant waving to players and fans. Some of Alli’s strengths are his  ability to pick out a key pass and tackling. He has a 76.6% passing accuracy across all competitions and averages 2.9 key passes per game which clearly shows as he as accumulated 9 assists in the premier league which makes him the 4th highest as well as having 2 assists in the FA Cup. Dele Alli’s biggest strength is the fact he can regularly score goals from central midfield, something England have lacked since the retirement of both Lampard and Gerrard from international duty. Dele Alli has 7 goals so far this season, many of them vital in getting Tottenham points to sustain their surprise title challenge. The England international is also versatile, as he can play all across the midfield, having been played in central midfield, attacking midfield and even out wide on the left. However some of Dele’s weaknesses are his crossing and his discipline, which was shown as he kicked on Nenad Tomovic in the Europa League after earlier stamping on Yohan Cabaye and being blasted by Alan Pardew. His aggression is a key part of his game but needs to tone it down to ensure he doesn’t develop a short fuse and gets silly bookings for over-agression like Marouane Fellaini and Gareth Barry. In terms of his crossing he’s only attempted 0.1 crosses this season, with only a 30% success rate with his crossing meeting the man. He also wins 1.1 of his aerial duels, making him one of the most well rounded young midfielders in the world.

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 14.21.10

Infographic of Dele Alli’s strengths and weakness

Overall, I think Dele Alli will be a grow to be a great and shrewd acquisition by Tottenham Hotspur and if played and nurtured correctly, can blossom into the player that can lead England to some extremely long over-due success.

 

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