Football is no stranger to cycles. The cycles have not eluded some of the greatest teams like Liverpool in the 1990s to Manchester United of recent times. Therefore, it must not come as a huge surprise to see Spurs struggle. However, it is not so normal for a team which reached the Champions League final last season to become one of the Premier League strugglers over a few months.
It is difficult to put the finger on one reason for this decline, but one of the reasons is the lack of fighting spirit within players. Dele Alli is one of the names who has virtually disappeared from the squad over the last 12 months.
The midfielder became the darling of England for the way he fought his way from the lower leagues. Alli was not a player who progressed straight from the youth team into the status of being an England international. Yet, the fight has completely gone out of the window. Today, Alli is playing like he belongs in the lower tiers of English football.
What has gone wrong for the player once described by Mauricio Pochettino as a wild horse that can’t be tamed?
For starters, Alli is not being played in his best position. Since breaking through in the Premier League a couple of years ago, Alli has largely been a goal scorer and not a playmaker. His astonishing return of 18 goals in the 2016-17 season is a testament. The assists were just a bonus when it came to the 23-year-old.
Last season brought about a crucial change. Pochettino used Alli in less favoured positions to accommodate Heung-Min Don. The entry of the South Korea brought a sizeable change. Unlike Kane who likes to play off a support striker, Son tries to push hard with pace and energy. Alli failed to click with Son, whose solo goals masked the growing problems. Since going out of touch with scoring goals, Alli has never been able to find favour once again.
Even as the young midfielder receives criticism about his non-existent impact on the pitch, it is remarkable that he remains as hard working as ever. During the Liverpool game on Sunday, Alli completed 12.21 kms – more than any other player on the pitch. Even though his drop in form began more than a year ago, he has been afforded little chance to rediscover himself. He has been shuffled all over the midfield as Pochettino tries to find a solution for the club’s problems. This has not helped Alli’s case.
Spurs have managed a paltry three wins in 10 games so far in the league this season. Only the bottom four clubs have a worse win percentage. Naturally, such a run is likely to result in poor numbers for a majority of players.
A change is imminent at Spurs as rumours grow about Pochettino losing his dressing room. The widespread consensus is that Spurs need a new approach. Alli is likely to be the first to benefit from such a fresh start. It will not be long before the young midfielder is back among the top names in the league.