50. Dele Alli
After the 2015/16 season, where Dele Alli announced himself as one of the best youngsters in the planet at just 20 years old, Spurs fans hoped that the Milton Keynes youth product would continue his great form, while rival fans of the London club like Arsenal, Chelsea, even Manchester United, wanted to see him fail as another one season wonder.
He started the season as an attacking midfielder in Mauricio Pochettino’s 4-2-3-1, where he was unable to force a winner on that Saturday in Goodison Park. After nearly a month without scoring, Alli finally broke his cold spell in a not-so-cold-and-rainy night in Stoke. With his team, Dele Alli fell into a terrible period of form that took a severe toll on Tottenham’s title hopes. He contributed little when he was on the pitch, failed to link up with Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane, his best attacking teammates.
Mentally and stylistically, Tottenham were struggling, in 5th place, just outside the Champions League spots. However, all of this changed when Pochettino changed his system. From the 4-2-3-1, he tweaked it to a 3-4-2-1 where Alli and Eriksen played in attacking midfield behind Harry Kane. Thanks to this tactical change, the White Hart Lane faithful started seeing their team begin a hot streak of games without losing from December to February.
The English international with Nigerian nationality scored 8 goals and dished out one assist in the Premier League, helping Spurs to advance into second place in the table, a place that they rarely left. Dele Alli ended the 2016/17 season with the best form in his young career, scoring 22 goals and assisting 13 goals in all competitions, proving that he was not a one season wonder as others expected, pleasing Tottenham’s fanbase with goals of all forms, winning the PFA Young Player of the Year for the second straight season.
Not only did Dele Alli prove he’s more than a one-season wonder, but he also demonstrated an immense maturity this season far beyond his 21 years. He became an essential player on and off the pitch, becoming an idol for his club and country. His development brought him media fame, the fans constantly demanded that he start, and his impact was highlighted whenever he was not on the pitch. He is of indisputable importance in Mauricio Pochettino’s positional attack; from the second line, he arrives to score, be it long distance, inside the area, or headers. He could be playing the worst match of his life, but with just one pass or finish, he can change the course of the match instantly.
At 21, I can confidently say that Dele Alli will spearhead England’s new generation, the legend that ravenously fights for national glory, like Wayne Rooney was for the last generation. He plays for a club where his strengths are maximized, where soon, he will soon come even farther in Europe and the Premier League.
The most talented are always those who show up the most, on top of the goals that they score. For this reason, I believe that, along with Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli is the leader of Tottenham, as the clinical goals that Harry Kane scores are produced by these two geniuses from Tottenham’s attacking midfield.
It seems crazy that there at just 21, Alli is such a complete midfielder, who can defend and yet still contribute to Tottenham’s superb attacking trident. Just as the Dane is a genius at timing passes and placing crosses into danger zones, Dele Alli is the man that attacks spaces, dribbles, and performs as a complete attacking midfielder.
Vision, dribbling, speed, composure, intelligence, timing of runs, cutbacks, but above all, talent. This is what defines Dele Alli, a player who, this past season, became one of the Three Lions’ best players, and who has gone from being a mere prospect to the real deal.
The 2017/18 season will be the World Cup year, and if he maintains his form, I hope that we will see Dele Alli shine for England in Russia, even if the highlights are only individual, rather than his team contributions.
Written by: Antonio González/@AGA26A, translated by Zach Lowy/@ZCalcio