Dele Alli made a major statement last weekend.
His two goals in Tottenham’s 3-1 victory against Chelsea demonstrated his vast array of skills that have made many football critics regard him as being one of the most talented young players in the world today.
A beautiful first touch, followed by a composed finish past Willy Cabellero, characterised his first goal, while his second highlighted his alertness and a vital fox in the box instinct to convert from close range.
Moving away from the goals, he was instrumental in the victory and outshone both Cesc Fabregas and N’Golo Kante of the Chelsea midfield.
Considering England’s first World Cup Match against Tunisia just two months away, Alli certainly timed this match right and has surely played his way back into the England manager’s thoughts again.
But, many are still finding it difficult to see how he can fit into the England first XI when England role out against Tunisia.
In the last two England friendlies, Gareth Southgate deployed his England side in a 3-4-2-1 formation with two deep-lying midfielders, two wide forwards, and no creative attacking midfielders.
The England manager also played with three at the back in England’s friendlies against Brazil and Germany, both of those games were impressive defensive performances and both finished 0-0.
Before the Euros and the 2014 world cup, no one really knew what England’s best formation was.
In an attempt to try and crowbar every single good creative player in the side Roy Hodgson experimented with a diamond formation and a 4-2-3-1 but eventually opted to play a 4-3-3 formation in Euros, with Wayne Rooney and Deli Alli crowbarred in as central midfielders and Daniel Sturridge crowbarred in at right wing. This has been England’s downfall for years.
Playing players out of position to accommodate other players, who are probably playing out of position themselves, is not the way to go.
Alli is an outstanding player, one of England’s most talented players but he is strictly a central-attacking midfielder. Without sounding like Jose Mourinho he is not a number six, not even a number eight midfielder. He is a number ten midfielder, the creative focal point behind the striker and he should not be played anywhere else.
He should not be put in the first XI for the sake of it whether that is being shifted out to the wing or to be dragged back into central defensive midfield.
The Three Lions dominated Italy in the last friendly and the pace of Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard terrified a normally assured Italian defence.
With Eric Dier’s strength and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pace and stamina in midfield, Southgate looks to have found a great partnership in midfield.
Southgate should only start Alli if he opts to play with a number-10 midfielder, whether that is in a 3-5-2.
Going back to four at the back with a 4-2-3-1 would be a rash decision as the Three Lions have looked so assured with three at the back, not forgetting the revelation of Kyle Walker at the right centre-back.
A 3-5-2 by unleashing the Tottenham midfielder at number 10, but that would mean pushing Raheem Sterling to striker alongside Harry Kane, but then it looks like we are crowbarring players in.
An England team on paper with the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jack Wilshere, looks fantastic, but it will only work if they are played in their preferred positions.
Southgate will have lots of sleepless nights debating what his first England XI will be.
The future is looking bright for England, especially after the last four friendlies, but Southgate will have to figure out how to use the beast that is Alli, and that decision will be critical.