There are so many fires burning atTottenhamHotspur in what overall has been a terrible 2019 that it is difficult to know which one to put out first.
But amid the inferno ripping through the club concerning the future of manager Mauricio Pochettino and his unsettled team is a figure that needs to catch a spark again in the form ofDele Alli.
After joining for a modest £ 5million from MK Dons in 2015, the midfielder quickly emerged to become a key figure at the northLondonside, with his form impressive enough to fast-track him into the England squad.
Alli was part of a Tottenham side that crashed to a humiliating 7-2 defeat by Bayern Munich
Since his 2015 Spurs deb ut he has been capped 37 times by the Three Lions but his omission this week from Gareth Southgate’s squad despite being available puts into perspective his rapid 2019 decline .
Just last year he was a key figure for England at the World Cup, scoring in the quarter-final win over Sweden and winning the free-kick that led to the opener in the semi -final with Croatia.
But form for club and country has been on the wane since – he has not scored for either in nearly (months.)
So what has gone wrong for the attacking midfielder who was hauled off with 20 minutes to play in Tottenham’s humiliating 7-2 thrashing at White Hart Lane by Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Just last year, Alli was a key part of the England side that reached the World Cup semi-f inals
He has been a star in the Tottenham set-up since making his debut for the club in 2015
Chief suspect is a hamstring injury he picked up way back in January during a Premier League clash at Fulham, which incidentally was the venue for his last goal and Tottenham’s last domestic away victory.
Spurs, who were without Harry Kane and Son Heung-min that day, were desperately relying on their talisman to carry their side through a tough period.
Despite a labored Spurs performance overall he was one of their better players until being forced off injured with four minutes to play.
It kept him out for two months and he returned to start in Tottenham’s 2-1 defeat at Southampton where in what is becoming a typical pattern, Spurs led before collapsing late in the second half.
He has not scored a goal since netting in Spurs’ last domestic away win at Fulham in January
In the same game the 23 – year-old picked up a hamstring injury and he has struggled ever since
Like his team, he hasn’t recovered since . Anonymous performances in the Champions League final and in the Nations League finals with England preceded a much needed break.
Except after resuming pre-season training, Alli injured his hamstring again and it has restricted him to just four appearances this term.
Only 30 minutes of those have come in the Premier League at Arsenal, while the only time he has completed a full game was in the humiliating League Cup exit at Colchester United.
Alli’s poor form then looks like it stretches back to January. In a perfect storm it resulted in him returning to a Spurs side who have looked woeful with or without him since.
But there were signs of a decline before his Craven Cottage injury. He became less of a key figure in the Spurs squad during last term – with early reasons for that being put down to a lack of rest and a pre-season following that long World Cup summer with England.
Alli once wowed Spurs fans with classy finishes including last December in a win over Arsenal
2015 – (******************************************************: 46 apps, (goals, 11 assists
2016 – 17: 50 apps, 22 goals , 13 assists
2017 – 18: 50 apps, 14 goals, (assists)
2018 – 19: 38 apps, 7 goals, 8 assists
2019 – 20: 4 apps, 0 goals, 0 assists
In the Premier League last term his contribution dipped alarmingly in attack even when taking into account his injury lay-off.
He had 39 attempts on goal, 19 on target, from 25 games. That is on average 1.6 shots on goal per game.
That’s down on the 2017 – 18 campaign where the average was around 1.9, and way off his peak season of – 17 where the figure was nearer 2.5. A possible reason for this could be down to teams simply finding out a way of playing against him – ideally nullifying him by closing him down much quicker.
But it could also be a change of tactics from Pochettino that has not helped his cause. Players far from happy with the diamond midfield, and he struggles to get involved in games in his advanced role up the pitch – often reduced to playing ambitious flicks and passes which rarely come off.
After returning from injury, Alli struggled and was substituted in the Champions League final
Alli’s form for England has been just as poor and has led to Gareth Southgate dropping him
Flair he once displayed that helped make Spurs so good to watch has all but disappeared.
The incredible control and volley against Crystal Palace in 2016, the clinical double to help Tottenham win at Chelsea two years later and his delightful lob to win the north London derby at the Emirates Stadium in December are now just symbols of what Alli once was.
But if Alli was just going through the motions, then being dropped from the England squad should be the wake-up call. This year alone he has gone from being a key player for club and country to an afterthought at both.
Alli’s long term England place is under serious threat following the emergence of Mason Mount
James Maddison has impressed at Leicester and has climbed above Alli in the pecking order
At Spurs he is no longer guaranteed a starting spot such is his ineffectiveness while England have three players who are offering far more end product in Ross Barkley, Mason Mount and James Maddison.
The positives for the 23 – year-old is he is still young enough to bounce back. His malaise seems mainly to be down to his setbacks from injury and fatigue last term and having to return to a team in turmoil.
Unfortunately, the latter especially means his struggles don’t look like coming to a halt anytime soon. But there does also seem to be a confidence void in Alli who needs to rediscover his flamboyance that made him such an all-round threat for club and country.
Spurs and England fans will just hope that there are still embers ready to turn into flames again rather than seeing a talented star burning out.
GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings