You are only as good as your last performance and it seems Dele Alli is back to his very best, though for new Tottenham Hotspur boss Jose Mourinho, this was no surprise.
“I asked him if he was Dele or Dele’s brother,” he told reporters ahead of their 3-2 win at West Ham. “He told me he was Dele. ‘OK,’ I said. ‘Play like Dele.'”
And play like his former self, which had many envisaging him becoming England’s next great midfielder, he did. To be fair, it was coming, there were signs of a turnaround in the final days of Mauricio Pochettino’s reign, but this felt particularly huge given recent events.
Naturally, when a new manager takes over, everyone is determined to impress and Alli – who looked in danger of fading away earlier this season – was no different. However, when the new man in charge seeks you out personally, you know you’ve reached a crossroad.
On his day, Alli is unplayable and offers Spurs so much in terms of goal contribution and defensive work. Tiredness could be a factor, considering how much he’s played for someone who doesn’t turn 24 until next April, but for today at least, the Milton Keynes-born footballer dug deep within himself to remind everyone reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated.
A moment of sheer brilliance
Nothing typified Alli’s mini resurgence at the London Stadium more than his involvement in the build up to Lucas Moura doubling Spurs’ lead just minutes before half-time. A streetwise footballer, Alli is no stranger to deploying a piece of ingenuity from nowhere, and he needed to after misreading Eric Dier’s pass.
Absolutely ridiculous from Dele Alli 😳
That is SO good! 😍👏pic.twitter.com/Hdr35KtH6n
— BT Sport (@btsport) November 23, 2019
Stationed in front of Mourinho, the ball arrived behind him as he was running forward. Once swivelling around, Alli dropped to the floor and then produced an outrageous flick to continue Spurs’ move which ultimately led to Son Heung-min – who initially broke the deadlock – to cross for Moura to convert.
Normally, this would be overlooked, but given where he’s been of late, it was a signal the version of Alli that wowed audiences in the past was playing this afternoon and not his brother as Mourinho asked.
All work is easy work
It will be interesting to see the Mourinho-Alli dynamic going forward. Dealing with footballers who wear their heart on their sleeve is nothing new for the much-travelled Portuguese tactician but the trick is to convert those emotions into productivity. The early signs are promising.
Dele Alli's first half by numbers vs. West Ham:
4 tackles won
2 chances created
1 foul won
1 assist pic.twitter.com/BORn9WzvLS
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 23, 2019
Alli, playing as a deep-lying forward in support of lone striker Harry Kane, successfully made no fewer than four tackles – more than other Spurs starter. He also made one interception, showing that under Mourinho, he can be the first line of defence.
This is something he obviously relishes. In the past, Alli has received equal praise and criticism for adopting an aggressive style of play. Given how Mourinho prefers his ‘number 10s’ to be balanced, that side of him could ebb away – expect him to use Frank Lampard as an example.