Why the criticism of Dele Alli is unfair

Dele Alli has been in the spotlight for so long that it’ll shock many he’s only 24-years-old.

Despite this, he has been to two international tournaments with England and has featured in a Champions League final.

Alli took the Premier League by storm, winning the PFA Young Player of the Year in his first two seasons. He is also the youngest English midfielder to score 50 league goals, ahead of the likes of Lampard, Gerrard and Beckham.

In actual fact, he boasts the productivity of that of a striker. Alli has the seventh most goal contributions before the age of 24. He is in esteemed company, only behind Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, Robbie Fowler, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Chris Sutton.

Yet despite this, Alli has been the source of vast scrutiny since his perceived decline productivity from the 2018 World Cup.

What people fail to remember is how good Alli was in those first two seasons after joining as a 19-year-old.

10 goals and 9 assists in his first season in the Premier League was an impressive jump from the third tier of English football. To then follow that up with 18 goals and nine assists is simply astonishing.

At this time Alli had formed a partnership with Harry Kane which was simply world class. The two wreaked havoc across the league and very few managed to stop them. Spurs finished third and then second as they came to the forefront of English football with an exciting young team.

The following season Alli contributed nine goals and 11 assists as he was selected for England’s World Cup squad. Alli scored to send England through to the semi-finals, the furthest they’d been since Italia ’90.

Last season Alli’s goal tally dropped to five goals and three assists in the league, as he endured a nine-month goal drought between January and October of 2019. Many argued that this drought was the clearest indicator of Alli’s fall from grace.

Except it’s not…

In Alli’s first season at Spurs, he averaged 0.69 goals and assists per 90 minutes. In the 2019/20 season, his average was 0.56, still with nine games to go. Yes, while the cynical may argue it has gone down, -0.13 goals and assists isn’t such a decline that warrants such scrutiny.

With the emergence of Heung Min Son, Spurs also have less of a reliance on the partnership of Kane and Alli, as the South Korean productivity and form has improved.

Moreover, Alli has only played in his preferred position of attacking midfield 48% of the time this season. Meaning he has been deployed out of position for most of this season, making his stats ever more impressive.

In his first two seasons, Alli played in the attacking midfield from 53% and 54% of the time, showing why his form was able to be so consistent. It’s also worth noting that in Alli’s first two seasons, he was massively over performing for a player who was 19 and then 20 years old.

England ace Dele Alli robbed at knifepoint

In fact, this season statistically has been Alli’s best. This term Alli has a total of 0.55 expected goal per 90, from his own expected goals and the expected goals from chances he creates. For context, this stat sat at 0.49 in 2015/16 and 0.50 in 2016/17.

It’s very easy to look at the simpler stats and blame Alli’s excursions into fashion and other ‘distractions’. Sure his stock maybe isn’t as high as it was a few years ago, but when you actually look at more sophisticated analysis, Alli is performing well.

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