Alli revitalized after Mourinho’s motivational teasing
LONDON (AP) — The improvisation was exquisite, and Dele Alli couldn’t have chosen a better place to execute the skillful move.
Directly in front of new manager Jose Mourinho, Alli’s back-heeled flick did much more than keep the ball in play after he slipped to the turf at West Ham.
Before the ball could be retrieved by defender Ryan Fredericks, Son Heung-min accelerated onto Alli’s audacious assist and then crossed for Lucas Moura to send Tottenham into a two-goal lead.
“Just a bit of fast thinking,” Alli said after Tottenham’s 3-2 win on Saturday. “Before I got the ball I knew Sonny was making the run. So as soon as the ball went the other side, I lost my footing and I knew I had to put the ball in anyway. Maybe it wasn’t as good as it looked.”
But it certainly impressed Mourinho.
“The piece of skill was amazing,” the Portuguese said. “But what for me is more amazing is the mental thing in relation to that.
“You only do that if you are focused, committed, ultra-confident, if not you give up when you have bad feeling, sadness, you don’t do that piece of skill.”
Mourinho seems to have made it a pet project at Tottenham to revitalize Alli, who lost his place in the England squad recently after a drop in performance at Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino.
Before his first game as Pochettino’s successor, Mourinho spoke to Alli about why he was no longer as dynamic or influential in midfield.
“I asked him if he was Dele or Dele’s brother,” Mourinho recalled. “He told me he was Dele. ‘OK,’ I said. ‘Play like Dele.’”
Playing just like the prodigious teenager signed from M.K. Dons in 2015, Alli was finding pockets of space across the field against an admittedly poor West Ham side to help Tottenham control the game.
A ball threaded through by Alli to Son provided the opener at the Olympic Stadium.
“I think individually I haven’t been playing that bad,” the 23-year-old Alli said. “I just have to keep getting better. A lot of people ask me if I’m going to find my old form, but I don’t want to find that form, I want to get better than that and improve and reach my full potential.
“People might think I’ve played bad today and people might think I played good but for me, we won. So I’m happy.”
Tottenham held on for a first English Premier League away win since last season in January after conceding twice in the second half.
“We need to work on being 3-0 up and it being so nervy at the end,” Alli said. “We should never have been in that position after how well we were playing and, not easy, but how on top we were.”
Tougher tests will come for Tottenham and Alli as they find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being nine points from the top four Champions League qualification places.
But Mourinho is delighted to see for himself how intelligent Alli can be on the ball.
“I think it was the old Dele Alli,” Mourinho said. “The Dele Alli of a couple of years ago that impressed not just England but the world.
“He did exactly what I wanted him to do with two days of work, important selection of information. I tried to make it clear for him exactly the spaces we wanted him to play, offensively and defensively.”