Over the last few years, Tottenham’s attacking midfielder Dele Alli has burst on the football scene, establishing himself as one of the best players of his type in the English Premier League.
Despite his effectiveness for Spurs, the former MK Dons star has struggled to find his best form for England at international level. Alli played in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat by Spain in the Nations League.
However, the midfielder has sustained a minor muscle injury, so will miss the Three Lions friendly game against Switzerland on Tuesday, a game Gareth Southgate’s team are slight favourites to win.
Not the attributes England needs
Dele Alli is a fine player at what he does. At club and international level, he almost plays as a second striker at times with Spurs teammate Harry Kane in the lone frontman role. However, despite his stats stating he does pick up a fair few assists, he is not what you call a midfield creator.
His strength is arriving late from midfield and causing problems for opposing defences. The 22-year-old is not renowned for his vision or his creative flair, though.
England missing a midfield creator
In terms of midfield creators, England have very players available. In fact, in the modern game real midfield creators are getting shorter on the ground. It would be hard to name a current English player who is known for being creative.
The likes of Jack Wilshere and Ross Barkley have both been mooted as the solution to England’s lack of creativity. However, both have failed to live up to their reputations as artisans.
Barkley is only just finding his feet in the Chelsea first-team after a January move from Everton. He struggled to get in the Blues team under Antonio Conte. However, Maurizio Sarri seems to see something in the playmaker that Conte did not.
Wilshere moved to West Ham in the summer after a decade of inconsistency at Arsenal. The 26-year-old has long since been hailed the man to solve England’s creative problems. Time is running out for him to prove himself.
Normally a more naturally creative player would be playing in the role that Alli occupies. Alli is more comfortable getting on the end of chances than creating them himself. He seems to enjoy playing for Spurs, who have Danish star Christian Eriksen as master creator.
A chance for other players
The injury to Alli will be a chance for another player to impress against Switzerland on Tuesday night. England boss Southgate may decide to change his formation or he could draft in the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Eric Dier or even newly called up Demarai Gray to start for the Three Lions.
Alli’s absence may not be a blessing, but it does give Southgate room to play around with his options and maybe set up differently, as when Alli is fit, he has to be in the team because he is such an attacking threat. It will be interesting to see how England plays without the attacking midfielder, who has cemented his place so firmly in England’s starting line-up in recent years.
Will Gareth Southgate set his team up differently without Dele Alli?