The Return of Dele?
LEEDS, ENGLAND - MAY 08: Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur looks on during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Tottenham Hotspur at Elland Road on May 08, 2021 in Leeds, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Dele Alli earned himself successive starts in the Premier League for the first time this season as Tottenham Hotspur lost out on the opportunity to gain on Leicester City in the race of the top four. 

The 25-year-old has been miles away from the form that saw him accumulate 18 goals and 7 assists in the Premier League during the 2016/17 campaign. 

However, since the dismissal of Jose Mourinho as Spurs' manager, Dele has found himself emerging as a pivotal player once again in a new and improved setup under interim boss Ryan Mason.

  • Working for the team

Over the recent months, Spurs have become rather predictable in their style of play. Harry Kane tops both the scoring and assists charts in the league this season, and it is clear that the main threat of the team is provided by the England captain.

Despite this, the last few games, in which Dele has featured, Spurs have seemed more difficult to figure out. 

One of the main reasons for this is the work that Dele does for the team off the ball. 

The trademark diagonal ball from centre-half Toby Alderweireld to Dele is something that fans are relishing during this renaissance. 

Not only this, but Dele is excellent at making runs off the ball that drag defenders to areas of the pitch that allow Spurs' attackers to exploit spaces in behind the opposition.

Continuously, even a simple analysis of Dele would highlight the role he has in initiating and maintaining a high press. 

In the months prior to Mourinho's sacking, there was a complete lack of a press throughout the Spurs squad. In the two games he has started for Spurs recently, Dele has been the player to press high and chase loose balls. 

This has led to more turnovers and Spurs playing on the front foot more frequently, which is effective, especially against the weaker teams, as it forces them into mistakes, that can be capitalised on. 

Dele's work goes unpraised and unnoticed for the most part, however, his energy and desire to win the ball back has only helped the current setup and style that Mason is trying to instill.

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  • Technique and Flair 

Under the management of Mourinho, the veteran was never a fan of fancy flicks, or anything other than the basics really. 

It is always worrying when you see a player like Dele not utilising that skillset, especially considering that has always been a big feature of his game. 

The fact that the former MK Dons player is back on the pitch, nutmegging his opponents and tormenting them with flicks of the ball that seem to just be out of the reach of their outstretched boots, can only be a positive sign. 

Continuously, Dele is one of those players who play as if the ball is magically glued to their feet. 

Despite being on the losing side on Saturday, Dele had a memorable first half against Leeds United. He was particularly bright and was essential in setting up Heung-Min Son for Spurs' equaliser early on in the game.

He managed to squeeze a snap pass through the entire Leeds defence for Son to latch on to, before the South Korean fired the ball home.

Furthermore, Dele was once again involved, in a key Spurs move as  Harry Kane was fed through to chip over the Leeds keeper, just for the goal to be ruled out, despite the VAR review showing Kane was clearly level with the defender.

Dele looked revitalised during the game, and demonstrated the ability, we all know he has. 

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  • Second Striker

It is worth noting the position Dele fills whenever he is on the pitch in a Spurs kit. 

During his prolific 16/17 season, the young Englishman often filled the pocket next to, or in behind the striker. 

A similar pattern is beginning to emerge towards the latter stage of the season for Dele. 

Dele excels when he is able to pounce on loose balls, and put pressure on the opposition's deepest players. This has been noticeable against both Sheffield United and Leeds, and has been relatively successful in forcing the opponents into mistakes.

This position also provides extra support to the likes of Kane, Son, and Gareth Bale. With Dele occupying this role, there is suddenly a new avenue for the attackers to explore. Dele is excellent at diverting and misleading players, which opens a whole range of possibilities for Spurs going forward.

Overall, it is probably too early to say that 'Dele is back'. But if he continues to perform as we approach the end of the season, we can hopefully see him rekindle his true potential in a Spurs shirt next season, with a new manager, and new energy throughout this currently depleted Spurs squad.