Lal­lana is my best cre­ative spark, not Alli, says man­ager

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - 2018 World Cup Qualifier - By Matt Law

Gareth South­gate be­lieves Dele Alli has been wrongly cast as the man to make Eng­land ex­cit­ing again and has claimed in­jured mid­fielder Adam Lal­lana has been his best player.

Alli is avail­able af­ter serv­ing a one-match sus­pen­sion and is set to start in Lithua­nia tonight as Eng­land look to give the na­tion some cause for op­ti­mism ahead of next sum­mer’s World Cup, fol­low­ing a se­ries of drab per­for­mances.

But South­gate has claimed that Lal­lana, who has not played since June, is ac­tu­ally Eng­land’s bright­est cre­ative spark, rather than Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur mid­fielder Alli.

“In my year in charge, Adam Lal­lana has been our best player and we’ve not had him for the last three matches,” said the Eng­land man­ager. “There are some play­ers who can un­lock de­fences and score goals.

“Dele is an in­ter­est­ing player. If you an­a­lyse his game closely, he’s a scorer of goals, and he’s not nec­es­sar­ily the link player Adam is.

“So, per­cep­tions of play­ers and their ac­tual par­tic­u­lar skill sets and ar­eas where they are ef­fec­tive is not what’s com­monly per­ceived. I go to games and I look at one per­son and how he plays, so you see the dif­fer­ent at­tributes.

“Dele’s big­gest strengths are ar­riv­ing in the box, tim­ing his runs, fin­ish­ing and scor­ing goals. If he can add con­sis­tency to his touch and cre­ativ­ity of pass, he will be a bet­ter player than he al­ready is.”

Alli is yet to trans­fer his su­perb scor­ing form for Tot­ten­ham to Eng­land, hav­ing net­ted just twice in 21 in­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ances, and South­gate knows he must get the best out of the 21-year-old, who has dis­played a tele­pathic un­der­stand­ing with Harry Kane at club level.

“The more relationships you can have on the pitch in in­ter­na­tional level from club level, the bet­ter,” said South­gate.

Alli was banned for a mid­dle-finger ges­ture against Slo­vakia last month and was ac­cused of div­ing in Tot­ten­ham’s vic­tory over Hud­der­s­field Town last week­end.

Af­ter he was forced to sit out Thurs­day’s Wem­b­ley vic­tory over Slove­nia that clinched qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the World Cup fi­nals, Alli has been warned by South­gate that op­po­nents and crit­ics will now be watch­ing for him to put a foot out of line.

“He un­der­stands his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, that the spot­light is on him even more now that his ca­reer is pro­gress­ing,” said South­gate.

“There will be more in­ter­est in what he does.

“It’s easy for me to sit here and say this is how he should be, and for him to sit there when he’s calm and sat down... that’s dif­fer­ent to be­ing in the mid­dle of a game be­cause ev­ery­one has dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties. He does things at times, not al­ways think­ing about what the pos­si­ble con­se­quences are if they go wrong.

“He’s a more in­stinc­tive type of per­son. He’s 21. All of us, at 21, don’t al­ways make the right de­ci­sions but, as a coach, you sup­port him and help him. As he gets older, he’ll make more good de­ci­sions in all ar­eas.”

Spot­light: Dele Alli has made poor de­ci­sions that have put him un­der un­wanted scru­tiny

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