Why Dele Alli deserves plaudits for his excellent performance against Manchester United and his evolving midfield role

28 Aug

Lucas Moura and Toby Alderweireld are the men rightly being praised for their performances for Tottenham Hotspur against Manchester United.

But one other Spurs star’s contribution to the 3-0 victory at Old Trafford is perhaps being overshadowed – Dele Alli.

Tottenham Hotspur star Dele Alli takes instructions from Mauricio Pochettino.

For the third season in a row, it appears the England star is being asked to adapt his role in the Tottenham team to suit Mauricio Pochettino’s tactics.

Trusted by the Argentine boss to fulfil the tasks needed of him, the 22-year-old is now playing in a slightly deeper position in a midfield three, mostly on the left but he also swapped to the right against the Red Devils.

His new role sees him making more defensive contributions than ever before, but also giving him the freedom to get up alongside forwards Harry Kane and Moura.

At Old Trafford, Alli did come a cropper with two excellent opportunities as he in Tottenham’s first forays but elsewhere during the historic victory put on a quietly brilliant disciplined display.

He was not only successful with all five of the tackles he attempted, but he also made one early clearance as Man United threatened from the off, and he made four important interceptions, and totalled seven ball recoveries, allowing Spurs relief at key points.

Alli is trusted by his managers both domestically and on the international stage as he becomes an incredibly versatile midfielder.

The performance sums up the way Alli seems set to play this campaign, already averaging 3.3 tackles per game in the Premier League, compared to 1.3 last season and 1.4 in 2016/17, while the amount of interceptions has risen from 0.5 per game last term to 2.3 so far in his opening three games this year.

Of course, this means a dip in his creativity, despite an increase in actual passes played, with his key pass per game average and his dribbles per game average both decline a fair amount.

But, crucially, he’s actually averaging more shots per game as he arrives from deep and runs into space made by his forwards.

Already this season, he’s averaging 2.7 shots per match, which is better than the 1.9 last year which saw him net nine goals, and it’s also more than the 2.5 per game in 2016/17 season when he scored 18 times.

Tottenham Hotspur star Dele Alli in action against Fulham.

It’s evident Alli’s nous at evading defenders and a different strategy are allowing him to take shot which have a much higher ‘expected goals value’ with one of his three chances against Man United reckoned to have been worth, in theory, 0.64 of goal, only to see David De Gea save the strike.

How this changes through the whole season is well worth keeping an eye on but for now he deserves far more praise for his performance against Manchester United than he has so far.