How Pochettino turned Tottenham into title contenders... Part 3: The wonderkid

Audi Cup 2015

With Tottenham two points off top, HITC Sport looks at their transformation in a five-part series...

Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham Hotspur side are revered for their youth and athleticism.

This season, a campaign in which the north London side have lost just three Premier League games, Tottenham have boasted the youngest squad in the top flight - exciting fans and neutrals alike with quick (often homegrown) and technically gifted players.

A number of senior players have provided invaluable experience: Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and more. But the Harry Kanes, Eric Diers, Christian Eriksens and even Erik Lamelas of this world all have relative youth on their side.

And none more so than Dele Alli, English football's biggest revelation this season.

Alli is a big deal. His rise has been rapid, shooting up from a League One player last term to an England international this campaign - who could be important enough to win a league title with his goals and assists. He is such a big deal, in fact, that Spurs were far from the only club who wanted him last summer.

"I spent a couple of hours in a hotel room with him and he wanted to come to Liverpool. It was all about getting the deal done with the club but unfortunately it never got done," former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers recently told Sky Sports Goals on Sunday.

"On Saturday evening we thought it had got done but eventually he went to Tottenham, which was frustrating and disappointing. He's done really well there."

At the start of the season, Alli wasn't a regular starter at White Hart Lane. Naturally, a teenager brought in from League One MK Dons wouldn't be thrown into the starting line-up.

But, week by week, there were more and more calls to thrown the 19-year-old in at the deep end. Alli has since played in a number of different midfield positions, earned himself an England call-up and (pictured above) celebrated scoring a spectacular long-range effort against France at Wembley.

As Tottenham fans also love pointing out, the youngster already has more Premier League goals to his name than Arsenal's Jack Wilshere in his whole career.

As much as Alli's talent speaks for itself, though, Pochettino deserves all the credit for getting him to where he is today. The Argentine has, all at the same time, balanced a number of key aspects of man management. Pochettino has allowed the midfielder the freedom to thrive but also repeatedly urged him to keep his head down.

The series so far...

Part 1: How Pochettino turned Tottenham into title contenders: The Dier masterstroke

Part 2: How Pochettino turned Tottenham into title contenders: The £11.5m bargain

The Spurs boss could have stopped Alli from playing so often. Other managers, as high profile as Jose Mourinho, would surely never use someone so young in such an important role. And let's not forget the commitment Tottenham showed in securing the teenager's signature. That wouldn't have happened without Pochettino's approval.

Alli's creativity was very much on show most recently against Watford in the Premier League. Tottenham, who were in the middle of a winning run, were struggling to break down Quique Sanchez Flores' organised defence.

It's not that Spurs were playing badly. But sometimes you need that little bit extra. A spark from somewhere - in this case, the introduction of Alli, who set up Tottenham's winner.

 2015/16 Premier League GoalsAssistsChances CreatedFinal-Third PassesTacklesAppearancesMinutes Played
Harry Kane 16 1 31 256 19 26 2,295
Dele Alli 7 5 32 246 39 24 1,751
Christian Eriksen 5 8 78 380 26 23 1,870
Mousa Dembélé 3 0 18 202 63 21 1,564
Eric Dier 3 1 9 210 40 25 2,202
Kyle Walker 1 1 17 180 47 22 1,972

As Opta stats show, Alli's impact has been vital this season. It's not only about the Tottenham youngster's talent, how he entertains fans and the quality of goals he's scored - but the simple fact he's netted more times than anyone other than Kane.

Alli's five assists is another impressive tally, while he has also won 39 tackles this season, demonstrating time and again his fearlessness up against tougher, more senior opponents.

Of all the reasons Spurs are where they are right now, then, no one can underestimate the impact of 19-year-old Dele Alli, the teenager Tottenham ensured they signed ahead of Premier League rivals - and the teenager Pochettino put his faith and trust in.

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