The Chalkboard: Alli turns in woeful performance at worst possible time

Dele Alli turned in a truly woeful performance as Tottenham Hotspur fell to a dismal 1-0 defeat to West Ham United on Saturday.

Spurs were handed their first-ever defeat at their new stadium by the Irons.

On the chalkboard

Alli is clearly a very talented midfield player who offers the versatility to play in attacking midfield and in the centre of the pitch.

But, on Saturday, he was either half-fit or disinterested as he turned in a performance that actively limited his team.

Per WhoScored, Alli had 62 touches of the ball, fewer than both Christian Eriksen and Eric Dier alongside him in central midfield.

With those touches, he had one shot on goal, which was blocked, while he was also dribbled past once and was dispossessed twice.

He also failed to make a single tackle, clearance or interception.

It remains unclear exactly which role Alli was expected to play throughout the game; if it was making an impact in the latter third of the pitch, he failed, while he also had no discernible effect in defence either.

With two games against Ajax looming, in the Champions League semi-final, Alli’s dip in form has come at the worst possible time.

Need an answer

Spurs need to find an answer to this riddle.

The club are in danger of falling out of the top four – they may need to win both of their remaining games, against Bournemouth and Everton, to qualify – but their recent performances do not inspire confidence.

Alli has been a major symptom of the illness plaguing the club; he has not scored since January, in the 2-1 win over Fulham, and since then has struggled with injuries.

He is playing because there is no real alternative. Oliver Skipp is too young to play regularly, Victor Wanyama is too defensive to play alongside Eric Dier while Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko are both currently injured.

But it is clear that there is something wrong; he is no longer making those forward runs from deep, or skipping past challenges, or spotting the incisive passes, or testing the opposition goalkeeper.

It is not necessarily his fault. Mauricio Pochettino’s reserves are depleted to the point of crisis.

But Spurs face a seriously difficult task to achieve their aims between now and the end of May if Pochettino cannot inspire a turnaround in the England international’s form.