As the Spurs team emerge from the tunnel, possibly bleary eyed after their long haul to Azerbaijan, at White Hart Lane this Sunday to face Chelsea, they will have to do so without their most impressive player this season.
A 19-year-old enjoying his day in the sun in his inaugural Premier League season, Dele Alli has never looked anything other than comfortable and at his natural level this year.
His emergence has been a bright spot in an enjoyable season for Spurs fans so far, as he goes from strength to strength. The plaudits and the superlatives have been sounded for this youngster plenty of times this season already.
It’s easy to forget that Alli has only played 18 times at the top level in his career, having made the move from MK Dons last year. If the stories are to be believed, this was a career move years in the making, with the Tottenham scouting and development team having him tracked since he was 15, and beating a host of clubs to secure his signing.
Often when a youngster is plucked by a top flight club from the Championship or League One, eyebrows are raised and questions are asked. But when Spurs stumped up the £5 million for Alli in January, no one was surprised.
An emerging talent, he was spoken highly of by respected people in the game and the consensus was that Spurs had bagged themselves a bit of a gem, and it now looks like an absolute bargain. But even so, £5 million for an 18-year-old from League One is still a bit of a gamble, but Alli has repaid that faith already.
He has already scored twice in the league, against Leicester and Aston Villa, and even more impressively, has added four senior England caps to his CV as well. His goal for England against France demonstrated exactly what Alli is about.
Technical ability married with an unwavering confidence, he let fly with an absolute thunderbolt from fully 35 yards, and team mate Hugo Lloris had no chance of stopping it. A significant footnote on a night where the football wasn’t all that important.
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino has warned to be cautious around hyping up Dele Alli too much and it’s easy to see why Spurs fans are getting excited about his talent and the progress that he has quickly made this year.
Him and Eric Dier have emerged quietly as one of the more solid midfield axis in the Premier League, and behind Lloris and Kane, those two must surely be the next names on the team sheet every week.
It’s easy to forget that Spurs have been here before with young promising English midfielders, Dean Marney, Jamie O’Hara, Tom Huddlestone, Andros Townsend and John Bostock to name a few at varying levels of ability and success, but refreshingly Alli looks the real deal.
Composed, strong, measured and fearless, he has a natural ability of finding space and making sure that he is already ready to receive a pass, and constantly looking for the ball, admirable qualities for someone so young.
He also has the most important quality for a ball playing midfielder which is vision, and can read the game so well for someone who is still only 19.
He still has a lot to learn, and with a pass completion rate of 78%, that is a statistic that he will definitely be looking to improve upon.
Also, as admirable as it was of him to come to Kyle Walker’s aid when the right back was fouled by Mark Noble on Sunday against West Ham, Alli needlessly got involved and picked up his fifth league booking of the season.
As soon as the card was shown, he realised the implication and looked gutted to be missing Spurs next big derby. Discipline will come as he matures and grows, but there have been times this season when his tackling has looked fairly reckless, and he will need to work on that and rein it in.
So, Spurs will have to do without the talented midfielder this Sunday against Chelsea, and I’m sure his energy and drive will be missed in a game that is always dramatic and often full of goals.
They’ll welcome him back the next week against West Brom, where he will look to continue his rich vein of form and impress, and keep the Spurs momentum towards a top four finish going.
A successful season so far for Alli could look even better come May time, and on to the Euros in the summer with England.