Jose Mourinho’s not the only one who’s found a new home at Tottenham Hotspur.
Incumbent prodigy Dele Alli appears positioned to maximize his gifts at long last, and he scored twice to lead Spurs past Bournemouth 3-2 in Mourinho’s home Premier League debut.
Despite another sloppy finish that saw Spurs nearly blow a three-goal lead, that’s three straight wins now to start the Mourinho era in North London, with Alli playing his biggest part yet on Saturday. Two balls over the top set up both of Alli’s goals, the first coming in the 21st minute with a straightforward finish set up by Son Heung-min:
Alli followed that with a brilliant bit of skill to bring down Toby Alderweireld’s long ball and double the lead shortly after the break:
Moussa Sissoko put the game out of reach with a nice volley in the 69th minute, while Harry Wilson prevented the shutout for Bournemouth a few minutes later before bagging another goal in the sixth minute of stoppage time.
But Alli was the star, scoring for the second straight match after a midweek Champions League opener in the rally past Olympiacos. And while the goals are nice, it’s the freedom he’s enjoying under Mourinho in these early stages that’s clearly making the difference.
So what’s happened? Well, for as much success as former manager Mauricio Pochettino brought Spurs, it’s hard to say he ever quite figured out how to unlock Alli. The 23-year-old alternated between overburdened midfielder and adrift second striker the past few years, to say nothing of the injury-impacted drought of form for club and country much of this calendar year.
Now, Mourinho has Alli effectively in a No. 10 position with freedom to roam. He can receive the ball and act as catalyst on the counter, playmaker in possession, and finisher in dangerous areas. Where there was reticence under Poch, there is release under Mou. (Ask yourself: Would Alli have had the confidence to try this before the past week or so?)
Alli will be key to Spurs’ push for a fifth straight top-four finish. The leaking of goals at the other end will need fixing, and we might see Mourinho’s infamous negative tactics creep in once the fixture schedule gets tougher. Plus, talented projects have a coin-flip rate of success under the Portuguese.
That’s talk for another day. The talk now is about Dele Alli, and for good reason.
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