Dele Alli controls the ball during the UEFA Europa Conference League match between Vitesse and Tottenham Hotspur at Gelredome on October 21, 2021 in Arnhem, Netherlands. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
With the January transfer window upon us, Dele Alli is one player sure to be the subject of intense speculation in a transfer rumor mill that has already been churning for some time.
The winter transfer window is notorious for how difficult it is to complete deals. It is synonymous with panic buying, making moves in a desperate bid to save a club’s season. However, Alli must find a way to break free from a relationship that has gone all too stale at Tottenham Hotspur, if he is to return to his best.
Many players will desperately be seeking new pastures and will have their agents working overtime to find them a move elsewhere. Those who are out of favor will see this as a window of opportunity, especially with 2022 World Cup in Qatar on the horizon. Alli is no exception.
Dele Alli unlikely to revive career at Tottenham
Alli has really struggled the past two years. His form had been on the decline towards the end of Mauricio Pochettino‘s time in charge of Tottenham, but since then it has fallen off a cliff.
When José Mourinho was appointed manager in November 2019, it felt like a much needed fresh start for Alli. Mourinho was keen to make him an important player and there was early promise he could return to his best with a fine performance in a 3-2 win over West Ham in Mourinho’s first game in charge.
Things soon turned sour, however, with Mourinho regularly questioning Alli’s effort and application. Alli was once again out of the team and the enormous potential he showed early in his Tottenham career was being wasted.
With Mourinho sacked in April 2021, Alli had another chance to prove himself. First to caretaker manager Ryan Mason, and then to Nuno Espirito Santo — the manager appointed in the summer after a long period of deliberation. He did so to neither and found himself largely out of favor once more.
Another chance to impress presented itself with the recent appointment of serial winner, Antonio Conte. It has been clear from Conte’s first few team selections that Alli is, at least, not in his immediate plans. The man capped 37 times for England has only started two of Conte’s seven league games in charge.
His first start, against Liverpool in a 2-2 draw, was a result of a lack of midfield options due to Covid-19, although Alli did show signs of promise in that game. The second came in the 1-1 draw against Southampton in Spurs’ latest game.
We’ve been here before with Alli, though. He had some credit in the bank from his early seasons at the club, but it has now been too long since Tottenham fans have seen the Alli they fell in love with after his move from MK Dons at 18. This feels all too familiar and it is difficult to envisage this being anything other than another false dawn for Alli at Spurs.
Despite Alli’s ongoing misery, there is a real player in there. You do not become a bad player overnight, but there is no doubt that Alli has been far less effective in recent seasons. Some of this may be down to the way he has been used. The departure of the creative spark of Christian Eriksen in January 2020 does correlate somewhat with Alli’s downturn in fortunes.
Alli is something of an oddity in that he is an attacking midfield player who lacks the creativity to carve open a defense as the best in the No. 10 jersey pride themselves on. He has always been more of a goalscorer than an assist provider, but in a time where players in his position, at the best clubs, are expected to do both, he has struggled with the creative burden.
Alli’s early career was founded on being in the right place at the right time. He made late runs into the box and scored a lot of goals doing so. He was never too involved in the build up and left that to others, namely Eriksen. With Eriksen’s departure, and Spurs’ inability to properly replace him, Alli has not been able to pick up the mantle.
A quick look at Alli’s Premier League goal returns emphasizes his decline more effectively than anything else. In his first campaign at Tottenham, he managed 10 league goals, 18 the following season, and nine the season after that. Since then, starting with the 2018/19 season, his record reads: five, eight, zero and one so far this season. A remarkable decline, considering Alli was just 20 in the season he hit 18 league goals.
Alli must move, but where to?
It is difficult to argue Alli will ever return to his best at Tottenham. He is 25 now and cannot afford to waste more years of his career. He was a key part of England’s run to the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup, playing in every game, but he has not featured for his country since June 2019.
At one point, it looked as though the Tottenham man would be a staple of England’s midfield for over a decade, now it is unclear if he will ever play for his country again. Since Alli was a regular in the England team, the level of the squad has undoubtedly gone up. Alli will have to show real improvement to be in that conversation again.
So, if Alli must leave Tottenham to r…