Why Juve have to stop Dele Alli - not Harry Kane
It is fair to say Dele Alli is yet to live up to the high standards he set himself last season during the current campaign. Even Mauricio Pochettino has conceded that the 21-year-old England international hasn’t quite managed to replicate the quite stunning form he produced previously. However, no one at Tottenham Hotspur will care about that if he help them overcome the mighty Juventus over the course of their two-legged Champions League last 16 encounter.
It speaks volumes for his importance to the Lilywhites that Pochettino has stuck by him and refused to be drawn by the idea of dropping him in search of a more consistent performer. This is because of the flexibility he provides Spurs with; they can change formation at the drop of a hat due to the simple but effective movement of the Milton Keynes native. Put simply, he gives his Argentine coach options very few other players would.
In many ways, Alli is an old-fashioned number 10 in the sense that he is equally adept inside the opponent’s penalty box as he is linking play between his fellow midfielders and the club’s talismanic striker Harry Kane. Of course, more often than not, Pochettino’s default formation is a 4-2-3-1 which involves Alli, Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-min providing the ammunition for Kane to do what he does best: score goals.
However, such is Alli’s determination to link-up with Kane at every opportunity, he effectively becomes another striker at times which leads to Spurs’ system being more akin to a 4-2-2-2, which does of course tie in with how popular that formation is in Pochettino’s homeland, Argentina. This is something Massimiliano Allegri’s charges must be aware of during tonight’s match: they cannot afford to fall into the trap of thinking all they have to do is cut the supply line to Kane. That could well be something they’ll live to regret.