Keeping Pochettino is Tottenham's key to maintaining its young, star core
There was a moment during Tottenham’s 4-0 win over Watford–a result that, if anything, was kind on the losing side–when you wondered if Dele Alli’s dark side might reappear. He had dribbled past three players on the left wing, showing considerable agility in the process, before Daryl Janmaat hacked him down. It was just the type of challenge that last year would have had him jumping up in disgust to face down his provocateur. It didn't happen.
A few minutes later, he tangled with Jose Holebas and the pair briefly exchanged views. Alli was ushered away by teammates. This is the fine line that Alli treads; for most of the game, he was outstanding, finding pockets of space between a patched-up Watford defense and scoring a glorious opening goal to set Spurs on its way.
“He’s special, a bit different to all the players that play now at his age,” Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said after the game. “His energy, his character, his quality. I think he is a unique player.”
Alli is the latest young English Spurs player to improve his abilities under Pochettino. After Harry Kane was last month hailed as a ‘three-season wonder’ for continuing the form of his breakout season, this time Alli has confirmed his potential, and will surely be in the running for the league’s Player of the Year award (after winning Young Player of the year last season). Alli has now scored 15 goals this season and was linked earlier this week to Real Madrid, whose former assistant coach Paul Clement (before Alli scored against his Swansea side), said: “Why can’t he make the step up? He’s still so young. All the best players get linked with Real Madrid.”
In the last two seasons, no team has won more cumulative points than Spurs. This young team plays exciting and vibrant football and has smartly signed its key assets to long-term contract to ward off big club offers this summer–Alli signed a deal running to 2022 last September. In recent weeks, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker have all been linked with big-money moves to clubs below them in the Premier League. But why would they want to leave the club now?
The same must be true of Alli, who turns 21 Tuesday. Like that of his teammates, his future seems inextricably linked to that of Pochettino. As long as the coach is in charge, this team will stay together and can realistically compete for the Premier League title next season.
Alli, like all the Spurs players, speaks highly of his Argentine coach.
“It is nice to have a manager behind me who backs me and trusts me as much as he does,” he said last month.
The task for Spurs chief executive Daniel Levy is to keep Pochettino in charge for as long as possible. That’s the best way of keeping this talented side together.