This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Dele Alli is not in the England squad.
The Three Lions will play Montenegro on Thursday and then face Kosovo on Sunday.
Gareth Southgate’s side should win both games; they beat the former 5-1 away from home and the latter 5-3 at home earlier in qualification.
Thus, one has to believe that the Tottenham Hotspur star’s absence can only be a good thing for both Spurs and Alli.
Indeed, he has played an awful lot of football in recent seasons.
He has already made 10 appearances this term, taking his tally for Spurs to 194. This is a 23-year-old who battled a hamstring injury last season and at the beginning of 2019/20, but he is selected as regularly as possible by Mauricio Pochettino.
For England, too, he was once a guaranteed starter. He has won 37 caps since 2015, playing all four games at Euro 2016, making five appearances at the 2018 World Cup and also playing in both UEFA Nations League finals matches.
This is now the second England squad he has been left out of, though, and one feels that giving Alli a rest – however brief – could do wonders for his form.
He is essentially burning out.
Think of the progression he has had since the 2015/16 season. He made 46 appearances in all competitions and then four more at the Euros, before returning in 2016/17 to make 50 more. He had that summer off purely due to scheduling, then played another 50 times for Spurs, went to the World Cup, came back, made 38 appearances, played in the Nations League, and is in double-figures for this season already.
It is relentless and it takes a toll.
Critics have said that Alli has “lost his hunger” and that he is playing poorly, but he could well be remodelling his game to limit the toll it can take on his body.
That isn’t losing your hunger, that’s just good sense.
His absence from England, then, has to be a boost for Spurs. He now has a fortnight to prepare for the clash with West Ham United and his club will need him to be at his best if they are to pick up all three points.
It is unlikely to make up for years of being worked to the bone, but it should at least keep him fresh; Spurs have Gareth Southgate to thank for that.