Cartilage Free Captain is once again reviewing each of Spurs' first team players and evaluating their 2015-16 season. The series continues today with Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Dele Alli.
Cards: 10 (10 yellow, 0 red)
Dudes punched: 1 (that we know of)
What went right?
Let's start this by being unequivocal: Dele Alli had a fantastic season. In a season of (mostly) good stories for Tottenham Hotspur, Alli's breakout season for Spurs might just be the best one of them all. It's amazing to think that this time last season he was playing for MK Dons in League 1 and absolutely tearing up the midfield. Dele entered this season for Spurs with bags of potential, but without any real expectations. After all, who would really predict that a 19-year old kid who just skipped a division to play for one of England's top clubs would have any meaningful impact?
And to be fair, it took a few games for Alli to make his presence felt in the first 11. He was an impact substitute in the league until the home match against Crystal Palace, and a regular starter in the group stage of the Europa League. But once he got there, hoooo boy. He quickly turned into not only a regular in Spurs' first choice 11, but arguably one of the team's most important players.
He adapted quickly to Mauricio Pochettino's tactical system, pressing well, making runs out of the midfield, and passing to open teammates. He linked up superbly with Harry Kane, providing an assist-to-goal combination that was the best player combo in all of Europe's major leagues.
The final Dele Alli nutmeg counter before the Euros start:— Spurs Stat Man (@SpursStatMan) April 30, 2016
Premier League: 17
Europa League: 8
He made his England national team debut under Roy Hodgson, and scored his first international goal. He did enough that he's practically a nailed-on starter for Hodgson in this summer's EURO Championships in France.
Oh, lest we forget, he also did this.
The other major highlight of Alli's season was his relationship with Eric Dier. Their partnership on the pitch, while amazing, was also completely overshadowed by their incredible bromance off the pitch. They're the best of friends and provided us endless entertainment this season.
Am I too effusive in singing his praises? I don't think I can be. Alli is phenomenal. A world-class talent in the making.
What went wrong?
If there's a weakness in Dele Alli's game right now, it's in his attitude. Dele plays with a bit of a nasty, "naughty" streak that sometimes works well but can also get him in trouble. He's adept at winding players up, but is prone to petulantly lashing out when he's perceived to have been wronged.
We saw this a number of times this season: he flipped a ball behind him off of Patrick van Aanholt's face. He (literally) butted heads with Mark Noble. He kicked Fiorentina's Nenad Tomovic in the stomach after the whistle in the Europa League. I actually went as far as to call him "a complete and utter knob" (but in a good way, I swear).
This all came to a head after Alli was retroactively suspended four games at the end of the season for punching West Brom's Claudio Yacob in the solar plexus. It was a horrifically dumb thing to do, and you might even say it marked the exact moment when the wheels started to fall off Tottenham's season. (Although even without the suspension I think it's highly likely he gets sent off or suspended against Chelsea)
This feels like a minor criticism of Alli based on the overall tenor of his season, but that one event against West Brom seriously impacted Spurs' season, and the other incidents could've made it worse. It's enough for me that it affected his final grade (see below).
One hopes that his season-ending suspension has pounded a couple of important lessons into Alli's head, because he'll need to internalize those messages in order to fully unlock his potential. That said, as good as he was this season Alli could absolutely explode next season. If he continues to improve his game, and there's absolutely no reason to think that he won't, he could very well be Tottenham's best player next season, and that's in a team that features Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Hugo Lloris, and Toby Alderweireld. Plus, he'll have the Champions League in which to showcase his abilities against the best football teams in Europe.
Dele Alli is amazing. Which will make it all the harder when we sell him to Real Madrid for £125m in two years.