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How far can Dele Alli's potential take him?

Tuesday 10th January 2017
Dele Alli's brace at White Hart Lane on Wednesday helped Tottenham to a 2-0 win over Chelsea. The victory also ended their London rivals' 13 game winning streak in the Premier League and meant Spurs jumped to third in the table. The 20-year-old's performance on the night epitomised his form of late and has people wondering what heights this young talent could reach.

Back in 2015, Alli signed for Tottenham from MK Dons and at £5 million, he has been a bargain for Spurs, scoring ten goals already this season, seven of those coming in the last four games. After a tough World Cup in Rio for Alli and the rest of the England team, he has bounced back and already matched his goal tally from last season. In comparison with their first 52 games in the top division, Alli has scored more goals than England legends Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. This is one of the reasons that Spurs' #20 is being considered a true rising star.

Mauricio Pochettino's attacking philosophy has been benefitting Alli's development and the freedom he is granted allows him to occupy a number of different positions. He can drift out to the wing and cut inside but more recently he has been running past Harry Kane, almost becoming a second striker. This license to roam has however, caused Alli to neglect his defensive duties. There is no denying that his work rate is high but in the latter stages of games he sometimes fails to track his runner and help protect the back line. This may be a fitness issue but even so, he must continue to improve his defensive mindset if he wants to be a successful midfielder.
Arguably, what puts Alli up there with the best attacking-midfielders in the league is the cleverness of his runs and ability to find space. He is a nightmare to mark because of the unpredictability of the positions he takes up. At times, he is like David Silva, finding brilliant pockets of space between the opponents defence and midfield but he can also move to the shoulder of the last defender, making runs similar to Jamie Vardy's last year. His headed goals on Wednesday came from smart runs off the Chelsea back three and who could forget his superb 20-yard volley against Crystal Palace last season. Both are examples of how he is a real threat in whatever position he finds himself.

Unfortunately, one of the youngster's biggest downfalls is his temperament. On numerous occasions, Alli has been unable to control his emotions during a match and squared up to or kicked out at opponents. Last season he was banned for an alleged punch on West Brom's Claudio Yacob and picked up an unnecessary yellow card against West Ham which led to a suspension for an important game against Chelsea.

As well as his indiscipline, Alli has been accused of diving or going down too easily after a challenge. The accusations may be harsh, but are sometimes justified. There have been several moments where he has found himself in a strong position but has chosen to go ground after minimal contact instead of shooting or passing. Some may believe looking for a foul is clever, others may call it dishonest, but either way, Alli has proven what he can do with the ball at his feet and should always look to take the opportunity instead of accepting the foul.

Looking forward, the key for Alli, as with any young talent, is to stay fit and grounded. I have heard rumours of interest from Barcelona and Real Madrid and hope that they are just rumours because for now, Alli must continue to thrive in the most competitive league in the world. In September, he committed his future to Tottenham by signing a six-year deal. If a big club wants to buy him they will have to splash the cash, although if his recent form carries on I am sure the top clubs wouldn't hesitate to make a huge offer for the youngster.

With more match winning performances and caps for England, Dele Alli will undoubtedly have an incredible career ahead of him but at this moment in time, he just needs to stay level-headed. By continuing to play with a swagger that fans have grown accustomed to seeing, he could make a real name for himself in world football.
Robert Wiltshire
I am a Creative Writing MA graduate with a love for playing, watching and writing about football.

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