Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has insisted that he is “not concerned” with Dele Alli’s poor start to the season, backing the 21-year-old forward to replicate his outstanding performances from the previous campaign sooner rather than later.
Alli was in fine form throughout last season, scoring 22 goals in all competitions as Spurs finished second in the league and made it to the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
But this season he has failed to hit the ground running and landed himself in controversy when he was handed a retrospective ban by Fifa for raising his middle finger during England’s 2-1 World Cup qualifying win for Slovakia.
Not that Pochettino is too concerned. Speaking ahead of Tottenham’s home match against Bournemouth on Saturday, the Spurs manager backed Alli to recover and urged his critics to take his young age into consideration.
“I am not concerned,” Pochettino said. “It’s true that it is a difficult period. He cannot play in the Champions League. He was banned in the national team. So he’s in a not too solid period for him.
“But it’s normal. He’s 21. So there are no doubts because he is a very talented player. He is mature, he is improving a lot and he is a special player. He needs only time to start to have performances like before.
“Over the last two seasons he has shown that he is capable of showing great quality. Now this period he has not been as solid but it is a good opportunity for him to become strong again.”
Pochettino has backed Alli to bounce back (Getty)
Pochettino also stressed that Alli had matured a great deal on and off the field as a result of the recent controversies he has found himself embroiled in.
“He is very conscious about everything now,” Pochettino added. “Sometimes it is good to feel that you are human and for him it’s sure that that situation helps him to improve.
“That is about being more mature. For two seasons he was on top of the hill. Maybe now he needs to moderate. I think it’s part of being a great player. That kind of situation can help him to be better.”
Lamela has finally returned to first-team training with Tottenham (Getty)
Tottenham face Bournemouth at Wembley without Mousa Dembele, Erik Lamela and Danny Rose, who all returned to training this week but remain unavailable for selection. And Pochettino warned supporters to be patient as the trio are gradually reintroduced to first-team football.
“It is so difficult to be playing football and feeling the love and then after one injury you find yourself on the corner and ignored,” he said. “Sometimes players are different characters. Sometimes they explode. Sometimes they are sad. It is important for us as staff to manage them in the right way.”