Dele Alli started for Spurs against Wolves on Sunday and played with the sort of joy and enthusiasm that he was clearly lacking under Jose Mourinho. It made me to wonder why it was only his fifth league start of the season.
Alli is such a talented player, a creator as well as a goalscorer. The 25 year old was a huge part of the Spurs team that finished third, second, third then fourth in consecutive seasons between 2016 and 2019 as well as reaching a Champions League Final.
During that period he also played a staring role for England in the 2018 World Cup, getting his name on the scoresheet in the quarter final win over Sweden. That tournament helped Alli enhance his reputation as being one of the best young midfielders in the world.
No-one could have predicted quite how rapidly his stock would fall. Under Mourinho he not only lost his spot in the Tottenham side but failed to make the matchday squad on several occasions and saw his international career grind to a sudden halt.
Alli is clearly a talent and a football coach has a responsibility to get the best out of every player both individually and collectively within the squad. Man management is key and not every player can be managed the same way.
During the two year UEFA Pro License course I majored on skills such as managing up the chain dealing with the expectations of senior players, staff, the media and all the stakeholders in a football club including, of course, the fans,
Football is a results business and had Jose Mourinho got the results he wanted and the results Daniel Levy expected when appointing him then the decision to sideline Deli Alli might have avoided close scrutiny. But things did not work out and a parting of the ways has given Alli a new lease of life.
Mourinho’s methods did not seem to work with Dele Alli. There was a similar situation with Luke Shaw at Manchester United, and he has gone on to establish himself as one of the best left backs in the league and an England regular in recent years.
Ryan Mason is temporarily in charge at Spurs and has clearly reverted back to the more ‘fatherly’ man management style that worked so well for Mauricio Pochettino. This has clearly improved the atmosphere within the Spurs squad and players like Alli and Gareth Bale are reaping the rewards..
Gareth Southgate, the England Head Coach, was sat watching inside the cavernous and empty Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday. He would have witnessed first hand Dele’s impressive performance against Wolves, and I hope he checked out the replays to see that, yes, he was denied a nutmeg assist by Rui Patricio’s fingertips and then denied a goal on the follow up by the width of a post.
Can Dele creep back into the England squad, increased by three to 26 for all finalists, for the delayed Euro 2020 tournament this summer? If he can perform to a similar level against Aston Villa and Leicester City he will be very close.
Gareth Southgate tends to favour those who have served him well in the past and Dele ticks that box strongly. He will also be fresh having missed out on so much of the season which could be a factor if we see some of the players involved in the Europa League and Champion’s League finals dropping out with injuries.
Jesse Lingard and Kelechi Iheanacho have been arguably the standout performers in the second half of the season. The former was not making matchday squads at Manchester United while the latter was struggling to make an impact as a substitute for Leicester but both have found a rich vein of form.
Meanwhile Patrick Bamford, with Premier League 15 goals to his name, was presumably disappointed not to score against Burnley last weekend, a club managed by Sean Dyche who allegedly thought he was ‘too posh’ to be a top level striker.
It just goes to show that sometimes players just need the right manager to coax the best form out of them. Ryan Mason has done that recently, it doesn’t look like Spurs see him as a long term solution, but with the correct man management Dele Alli can be a star for both club and country for years to come.