Tottenham Hotspur exacted revenge on bitter rivals Arsenal on Wednesday night as they emerged 2-0 victors and thus progressed to the semi-final of the Carabao Cup, in which they will face another London neighbour in Chelsea.
Son Heung-Min gave the visitors the lead as he coolly fired past Bernd Leno after a lethal Spurs counter, but few will remember that goal as Dele Alli wrote the headlines all by himself for the remainder of the clash.
The 22-year-old recorded one of his best performances this season as he teed up Son for the opener before perfectly controlling a lobbed through-pass from the recently introduced Harry Kane, and promptly dinking the ball over a hapless Leno with the deftest of finishes to seal the Gunners’ fate.
Gliding across the pitch, the former MK Dons man ran the show as a previously all-conquering Lucas Torreira couldn’t get near him. Despite taking just 49 touches, among the fewest in the squad, the midfielder made those count as his goal and assist earned him the match ball.
Christian Eriksen is widely regarded as Spurs’ playmaker in chief, but Alli completed 2 key passes to the Dane’s one while also chipping in defensively – the number 20 completed 4 tackles, too.
Alli has been known to let the occasion get the better of him and thus allow his temper to flare but, despite Arsenal fans doing their utmost to aggravate him – one ill-advised spectator threw a bottle at the Englishman, to which he responded with a ‘2-0’ hand gesture – he more or less kept his cool.
While he wouldn’t be the same player without this kind of verve, Alli can be a liability to his team if he loses control but, as reports link Eriksen and boss Mauricio Pochettino with moves to Real Madrid and Manchester United respectively, the all-rounder stepped up and delivered in some style at the Emirates.
Alli’s appeal is that there isn’t a midfielder like him – you’d be hard-pressed to find another 22-year-old who can boss the game in the manner which he did on Wednesday night. While the loyalties of Eriksen and Pochettino are bound to be tested in the months to come, Alli remains both the present and the future of Spurs and the priority for Daniel Levy must be to keep a hold of his prized asset.