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The curious case of Dele Alli - How the Englishman has been rejuvenated under José Mourinho

  • Will Dele Alli become one of Jose Mourinho's best player projects?
Modified 21 Dec 2019, 01:17 IST

Dele Alli in the Premier League
Dele Alli in the Premier League

The appointment of José Mourinho has brought about a change in fortunes for Tottenham Hotspur with four wins out of five, the latest being a 5-0 thumping of Burnley at home. It is natural for a mini-revival to occur after there has been a managerial change and this is no different.

Harry Kane has continued his goalscoring exploits while Son Heung-min is a model of consistency. The impact of the Portuguese on Dele Alli has been the most fascinating. He has 4 goals and 2 assists in five games, including the beautiful consolation goal in the loss against Manchester United, coming after a lovely bit of skill.

After his appointment, Mourinho held a series of individual pep talks with certain players. In a press conference, he revealed that Alli was one of them. In what is sure to be a famous anecdote in the future, he told the Englishman to 'play like Dele, the real Dele'.

It is common knowledge that man management is one of Mourinho's best skills. Throughout his career, he has obtained a response from various squads leading them to over-perform and achieve great things in the process. It appears that Alli maybe his next project.

In terms of tactics, there has always been a question mark over Alli's specific role. His talent is beyond doubt, but there has been a risk it would be wasted because no one knew how to utilise him.

This is where Mourinho's definition of a number 10 comes in to play. "A number 10 for me is an eight-and-a-half when the team loses the ball and the number 10 is a nine-and-a-half when the team has the ball. Who is my perfect number 10? Wesley Sneijder and Deco. Mesut Özil was very good at Real Madrid as well."

At his best, Alli has delivered terrific returns in terms of goals and assists. Before his drop-off from 2018-19, he finished with 22 goals and 13 assists in 2016-17 and an admirable 14 goals and 17 assists in 2017-18. This output along with the superb engine and a nasty streak means he has all the ingredients to be the next great number 10 for Mourinho.

Alli and Mourinho in the Champions League
Alli and Mourinho in the Champions League

To be fair to Alli, he had already been showing signs of improvement in the month before Mauricio Pochettino's sacking. The negative energy around the club was such that it was overshadowed by the team's overall performances and poor results. The change in the mindset and increase in confidence has been best articulated by his new manager.


In the 3-2 win against West Ham, Alli provided the assist for Son to score the opener. This was overshadowed by an outrageous piece of skill while on the floor to keep the ball in play and releasing Son, who set up the goal for Lucas Moura.

Mourinho was pleased. "The piece if skill was amazing, but what for me is more amazing is the mental thing in relation to that. You only do that if you are focused, committed, ultra-confident, if not you give up when you have bad feeling, sadness, you don’t do that piece of skill. It is amazing, but it only comes when from an emotional point of view everything is positive. Fantastic, I am really happy.” It is difficult to argue against that.

With a change in backroom staff and talk of an evolved tactical approach, Mourinho and Spurs are on the right track. You can be sure that the Portuguese will relish working with Alli and continue bringing out the best in him. It's a win-win situation.

Also check out: Premier League  Premier League Table Champions League Schedule

Published 08 Dec 2019, 23:17 IST
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