For what could be the first time, Mauricio Pochettino has acknowledged that Dele Alli is struggling a bit. After repeatedly saying that he’s been pleased with the performance of Alli, Tottenham Hotspur’s manager has admitted that Dele has slipped a couple of notches, and that he needs support from the Spurs coaching staff to get back to his very best.
"His success in two and a half years is massive, a fantastic achievement. It's not that he isn't doing good - the problem is that in the past he was amazing.
"Sometimes to be consistent, a player needs to go down to come back up. The most important thing now is support from the club and the coaching staff, to trust and help him reach the same levels as before."
I think it’s easy to forget sometimes that Dele is only 21 years old. He’s been such an important contributor for Tottenham the past two seasons that we fail to remember that he’s still a young, developing player. As with any young player, dips in form, plateaus, and mistakes are not only common, they’re expected. But when your young player breaks into a Premier League first team at 19 and plays a key role in helping Spurs challenge for two consecutive titles, that kind of perspective can be easily forgotten, or buried under the weight of expectation.
Nobody, least of all Pochettino, is saying that Dele has been especially great this season — he’s just been poor in comparison to his incredible heights the past two years. This is a critical period for Dele — it might be that this is the first time he’s really struggled with his form and development in his professional career, and he might not quite know how to handle it.
Spurs fans have been publicly calling for Poch to bench Dele due to his form, and with Erik Lamela now back and looking like he’s ready for extended minutes, it’s not the hottest of takes to suggest it. However, Pochettino seems to be asking those same fans for patience, and implies that whatever he’s going through right now, Dele might eventually come out the other side of it better for the experience.