“I like to just go out there and be myself,” Dele Alli told FourFourTwo in February. “Sometimes I get carried away with things, but I’m young and I’ve still got a lot to learn.”
He had a point. Getting ‘carried away with things’ caused Alli to suffer an unhappy end to what was a roaring success of a debut Premier League season. The three-match ban he was handed for whacking West Brom wind-up merchant Claudio Yacob in the gut brought a premature end to the youngster’s campaign.
Spurs took just one point from the three subsequent fixtures, which perhaps highlights how quickly Alli has made himself an integral part of Mauricio Pochettino’s side. That little loss of discipline (as well as Mousa Dembele’s eye-gouge against Chelsea) left Spurs short in midfield, and ultimately cost the Lilywhites second place – and a final placing above arch-rivals Arsenal. So there’s your lesson right there.
Still, that little foible shouldn’t detract too much from what has been a hugely impressive season – one which saw Alli score 10 Premier League goals as Spurs achieved their highest-ever Premier League finish.
In scoring eight goals in 31 Premier League matches as a teenager (he turned 20 on April 11), Alli outscored the young Paul Scholes (one in four matches before his 20th birthday), Frank Lampard (five in 46) and Steven Gerrard (one in 41).
The most memorable strike, of course, was the spectacular control, flick and volley against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in January, which was recently named Match of the Day’s goal of the season.
But it’s not just goals; Alli has also quickly become a consistent provider of assists – many of them for the Premier League’s top scorer. The young midfielder has provided nine league strikes for team-mates this season (only seven players laid on more); seven of those fell to Harry Kane, making their ‘assist to goalscorer’ partnership the Premier League’s joint-most prolific (alongside Ozil to Giroud and Deeney to Ighalo).
In fact, Alli created goalscoring chances from open play at a better rate than PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez (53 in 28 starts to the Leicester man's 55 in 36 starts), while still outscoring the likes of Dimitri Payet and Mesut Ozil.
“I definitely wouldn’t say I’ve made it yet,” Alli modestly told FFT. “I’ve still got so much to achieve. I’m extremely grateful for everything that’s happened so far, but I’m still just looking to improve.”
If he continues to do that – while keeping a lid on his temper – he’ll have a decent chance of busting a few more of Scholes, Lampard and Gerrard’s stats in years to come.
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