Under Karl Robinson, MK Dons have reached second in League 1 and look set to fight for a spot in the Championship. Not only have MK Dons been promoted, but they are also starting to gain attention for their youth setup- set up by former coach Dan Micciche. One prospect to emerge from this youth setup is the much talked off Dele Alli. Such has been Alli’s form that Tottenham bought him for £5 million in January on a five and a half year deal, but was loaned back for the remainder of the season. A young promising English midfielder, so who is Dele Alli?
Who is Dele Alli?
A product of the burgeoning MK dons youth academy, Alli has come to the fore in the last two seasons. He represented the club at every youth level and made his league debut against Coventry in 2012. The following season he built on this and became a first team member for the 2013/14 season.
A talented midfielder, Alli showcased his talent for both scoring and creating, finishing with 6 goals and 3 assists in the league. This season, however has been Alli’s break out year- he has been an integral part in MK Dons’ promotion scoring 16 goals and 9 assists, resulting in him being nominated for ‘Football League Young Player of the Year’.
Talent Radar Accolades:
2016-17 Talent Radar Midfielder of the Season [Runner-Up]
2015-16 Talent Radar Midfielder of the Season [Runner-Up]
Named in 100 to Watch in 2017 feature
Named in 100 to Watch in 2016 feature
A CM who can score goals is a rare commodity and this has led to Alli gaining much attention, with Tottenham pay £5 million for him. Such is Alli’s potential that Pochettino claimed Alli had the potential “to play in the Premier League right now”. Although MK Dons boss Karl Robinson was hoping to keep Alli on loan next season, it seems he will get a chance with Tottenham’s first team. Internationally, Alli has also progressed well for England.
He has progressed into the U19 and his injury had a big effect on their failure to qualify for the European Championship. Due to his performances, he is not far from the U21 squad and could be in the U20 squad for the Toulon Tournament. Alli himself has said he aims to break into the England first team squad, but for now is looking to “try and break into that squad [the U21s] or the U20s”.
Alli featured in our list of 100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2016.
Style of Play, Strengths & Weaknesses
Alli is a tall, skilful and balanced midfielder. Capable of playing as a CM or CAM, Alli possesses great quality going forward – as proven by his 16 goals and 9 assists this season. Despite being 6’2”, Alli is surprisingly balanced. He doesn’t have a huge build, but seems strong enough on the ball to be able to stay on his feet from tackles. Moreover, he has good speed to be able to run past defenders. Combine these with his ability to use tricks and his use of angles makes Alli a very good dribbler.
As I mentioned earlier; Alli can either play as a deep CM or a CAM driving at defenders. Due to his technical ability, Alli is comfortable picking the ball from his defenders or goalie. What I do have to mention however is that if he plays as a part of a within a 4-2-3-1, he’ll need someone next to him to help with the defensive side. Alli is not a defensive player, he can at times intercept passes, but isn’t the best tackler.
Because of his height he does head the ball well and has a good spring in his jump. Alli can finish outside the box, inside or play passes to his teammates. His shot isn’t the strongest, he can still shoot from outside or finesse the ball into the net. He isn’t afraid to use his left foot, but does have an evident preference; his right foot being far more technical.
While Alli does have an eye for goal, his passing is quite impressive too. On the ground, Alli is a very good passer and seems to have a good range. Aerially, I’m not sure if he can lift the ball over long distances; this is something that he can improve on over time. Overall, his passing ability is top notch. He also has great vision and can make cutting passes easily. He knows when to pass to feet and into space, but crucially he has good intelligence to go with his technical ability. Quite often he has made the pass in his head before actually receiving the ball. He also doesn’t rush with the ball- he lets players move around before making the pass or shooting.
Along with his good decision making, Alli is very neat and tidy. He rarely has a poor first touch and doesn’t seem to lose the ball easily. Furthermore, he has the ability to travel with the ball without seeming to exert much energy. He glides past players and makes dribbling seem easier. Everything he does seems casual and effective- this might change when he plays in the premier league though.
One thing you could say is that he hasn’t proven himself against top quality opposition. His talent was too good for League One and it’s going to be a big step up in quality. He won’t have as much time on the ball so his touch albeit good already is going to have to be slightly sharper.
Moreover, his anticipation will need to be quicker which might mean that he won’t play as a defensive midfielder. You could also argue that although he is good with the ball he might do too much with it sometimes. He will also have to learn to move without the ball to pick up pockets of space. He does have the frame and athletic ability to withstand the rigors of the Premier League.
In sum, Ali his a very good passer and dribbler. Considering his height he is incredibly comfortable on the ball and very balanced. He seems like a top talent, but he still does have some way to go. His movement off the ball will need to improve and his decision making will need to be faster. He does use his left sometimes, but his right is very strong. He can shoot well and seems a cool finisher in the box. When you watch him it seems like everything is easy and moving slowly around him.
What does the future hold?
Dele Alli is only 19, so time is on his side. The leap from League 1 to the Premier League is going to be tough. A loan spell in the Championship maybe good, but I think Premier League experience would be better for Alli. To me he looks like CAM or at least a CM who doesn’t do much defensive work.
Everything is in place for Alli to be a top player. It will be interesting to see how he fits in at Tottenham, but for me, experience will be key. If he plays regularly and at a high level I think Alli will be a good player. He’s only 19 so don’t think it will be immediate, but in time he could be a top player for Tottenham.
Written by Bill McLoughlin
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