Thank you to Matthew Schattner for this Guest Blog!
Last season, Dele Alli was on top of the world.
With 10 goals and nine assists to his name in his debut season with Tottenham, the midfielder was named the PFA Young Player of the Year and included in the PFA Team of the Year as he aided Spurs in a third place finish that secured Champions League qualification.
Things have changed this season. Alli has struggled, and by all accounts regressed. The England international has still provided three goals so far in 10 appearances, but his complete lack of assists points towards an overall drop-off in offensive play.
Alli’s shooting accuracy has fallen five percent, via Squawka, and he is less successful in winning duels than last season. Per WhoScored’s data, Alli contributed an average of 1.7 key passes per game last season; this season that figure has dropped slightly to 1.6. His 2.2 shots on goal per match last year has dropped to 2.1.
As far as his defensive contributions, Alli has had a significantly worse season. A tackles per game average of 2.2 has steeply fallen to 1.4, and an interceptions average of 1.8 has plummeted to an almost non-existent 0.3.
He is dribbled past 0.5 times more per game than last season, he commits a foul 0.1 times more per match, and an impressive average of 1 clearance per game has been reduced to 0.3 per match. Alli has also not yet contributed a single block compared to 0.2 blocks per match last year.
So what happened to cause this remarkable dip in form?
Tottenham as a whole have struggled to replicate their play from last year. Alli is not the only Spurs star performing under par in recent weeks, and the team’s issues were made fully apparent by crashing out of the Champions League at the group stage last week.
Son Heung-min’s form has tapered off after impressive performances in Harry Kane’s absence earlier in the season, and Eric Dier and Erik Lamela have both been inconsistent this season.
Alli also played for England at the European Championships last summer, playing in all four of England’s matches and starting three. The tournament and accompanying training limited his recovery time after a first full Premier League season, an especially draining situation for such a young player.
Most importantly, Alli is only 20 and in his second Premier League season.
He is not the first young player to struggle in their second year after an impressive initial campaign, as the pressure on young stars can be crushing and opposing teams begin to adjust.
Despite his drop in form, Alli’s talent and potential are undeniable, and the budding Spurs star will eventually find his way back into the heights reached last season.
The vital factor in reversing the struggles of young talents is the consistent support of the manager, and Mauricio Pochettino has given every indication that Alli has his full backing.
“He is special, a great guy,” said Pochettino in October. “We have a very good relationship. He is a very emotional person and we all love him.”