He started out as the next big thing for England and Spurs but the journey has not been smooth so far. Hindered by injuries and poor form, Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli faces an uncertain future while Pochettino and company are battling to recover from their own troubling period. In a clear assessment of the woes gripping Alli, the England international was far from convinving in Spurs embarrassing 7-2 defeat to Bayern Munich.
There were glimpses here of the Dele Alli of old, little touches and flicks that suggested he might be regaining some confidence.
For the most part, though, he was largely anonymous, and when he did attempt something it more often than not failed to come off. Bayern were able to restrict the 23-year-old relatively easily, and they were far more occupied with the threat of Son, Ndombele and Kane.
Alli’s return in terms of assists and goals has dropped off drastically of late. There was hope that tonight that might change. But he clearly still has work to do to find the form that made him such a threat a couple of years ago.
Only a few years ago, Alli was seen as one of Europe’s top rising stars.
Since then, the 23-year-old has been stuck in a steady decline that raises questions about his long-term future in north London.
After appearing in four of Tottenham’s five pre-season games, Alli was absent for the final friendly against Inter Milan due to the latest in a long line of hamstring issues.
Having missed games against Aston Villa, Manchester City and Newcastle, Alli was introduced on the hour for the 2-2 draw at Arsenal back in September. But that remains Alli’s lone Premier League action this term, with his two other appearances coming in two of Tottenham’s most underwhelming displays of the current campaign.
He was hauled off after 73 minutes of 2-2 Champions League draw at Olympiakos, with Tottenham reeling having blown a two-goal lead.
Alli’s current lowly place in Pochettino’s pecking order was clear for all to see when he was forced to start in under-strength Tottenham side for their League Cup third-round tie at minnows Colchester last week. That Alli delivered a limp performance in Tottenham’s shock penalty shoot-out defeat suggested Pochettino had been correct to use his playmaker so little.
The 23-year-old has come under much criticism of recent with the latest being from former Spurs striker Darren Bent who believes Dele Alli has not produced his best performances since winning the PFA Young Player of the Year award in the 2016/17 season.
Alli was awarded the gong for a second successive year as Tottenham finished runners-up in the league, when he beat teammate Harry Kane, as well as Romelu Lukaku and Leroy Sane in the process.
However, Bent feels that Alli has not kicked on since then, and believes the England midfielder returning to his best will give Spurs a greater chance of succeeding on the pitch.
Speaking to Football Insider, Bent praised Alli’s previous effect for Spurs and England, but believes the last couple of seasons have been below-par from the 23-year-old.
He said: “I haven’t seen Dele Alli play like Dele Alli for a long time.
“Before he got injured, he wasn’t playing like we know he can play. We know Dele Alli, when he gets on the ball, he can make things happen. One of the most creative players, one of the best creative players in the middle for England and Spurs.“For a couple of years now, the last time he played to the level we know he’s capable of was probably when he won the Young PFA Player of the Year award. Since then, he’s shown bits and bobs, but he’s not been consistent.
“If Spurs want to achieve anything, they need to get him back to his best.”
While Spurs have remained competitive in the last two seasons by maintaining their top-four status and reaching a Champions League final in June, Bent could well have a point in suggesting that Alli’s individual performances have been in decline.
Since scoring 18 times in the league during the 2016/17 campaign, Alli’s effectiveness in front of goal has been on the wane, scoring nine league goals in the following season and just five in an injury-hit 2018/19 (via Transfermarkt).
Ratings from WhoScored suggest his overall performances have also slowly faded, with his average match rating in the league falling from a height of 7.35/10 to 6.95/10 over a two-year period.
Considering it may be a stretch to say Spurs have gone backwards during that time, Alli’s gradual dip in form may leave followers of the club thinking what might have been, had the midfielder been at the top of his game in recent seasons.
In a period where Tottenham are struggling for creativity and the players with such acumen headlined by Christain Eriksen are rumoured to want out of the club, Dele Alli might prove the natural option to bring the Spurs midfield back to a respectable order. As long as he can stay fit and get a decent run of games, he could well return to the quality we’ve seen from him over recent years.
Right now, the 23-year-old looks short on confidence and if his situation isn’t managed properly, it could see a player with a once so promising career suffer a quick decline – much to his disappointment and that of Spurs as well.