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