Off the back of a phenomenal breakthrough campaign Dele Alli is surely set for a starring role with England at Euro 2016. In spite of his many talents, though, the Tottenham midfielder’s temperament is a genuine concern ahead of the tournament.
Spurs and England are blessed to have a player with as many natural attributes as Alli, who was rightly bestowed the honour of 2015/16 PFA Young Player of the Year.
When Alli is strutting around the pitch, leaving others for dust, raking passes or scoring stunning goals, it really is easy to forget that the former MK Dons youth was a teenager for the vast majority of this season – having only turned 20 early in April.
Showing his tender age
However where his immaturity is immediately plain is in the tackle or the aftermath of contact with other players.
His latest show of petulance does not make pleasant viewing for anybody, least of all England manager Roy Hodgson.
West Brom were clearly given the mission statement to provoke Tottenham’s midfield maestro from the off when the teams met in Monday-night Premier League action and the results were arguably as predictable as they were disappointing.
After all, Alli is no stranger to overzealousness in the challenge or angry verbal exchanges with opponents or officials, something perfectly illustrated by 11 yellow cards in all competitions leading into the crucial top-flight clash.
Petulant punch lands Alli in the dock
Reacting to the near constant nipping of his ankles by Claudio Yacob, the young Spur threw out an ill-advised punch to the Baggies midfielder’s midriff.
Although not punished by an unsighted referee it was caught by the TV cameras and this action now looks almost certain to land Alli a three-match ban for violent conduct retrospectively.
Perhaps this is the wake-up call that he needed. Nobody deplores controlled aggression in the game and his commitment to the tackle has earned Alli gushing plaudits in many quarters over the course of the season.
Teams will look to get inside his head
Any manager worth their salt (Tony Pulis take a bow) will recognise this propensity to react as a pressure point though, especially at international level.
Alli has literally no time to curb his temperament if he is to avoid any sort of hero-to-villain scenario at this summer’s Euros.
Others before him, such as Wayne Rooney – who has debatably only mastered his own anger in the last three or four years – and David Beckham, are two obvious examples of the price Alli could pay on the grandest stage.
Pochettino and Hodgson must earn their crust
It starts with Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs having a paternal word in his player’s ear, who may now sit out the remainder of the season. Valuable time to reflect.
But then Hodgson must use all his experience to find a way of harnessing Alli’s aggression without stifling his natural inclinations too much.
Nobody wishes Alli’s next chapter to be marred by a very costly misdemeanour in an England shirt.
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