Alli could upstage Barkley in England midfield

Tottenham's Dele Alli could prove to be a strong challenger for England's midfield spots should he continue his fine scoring record.
Tottenham's Dele Alli could prove to be a strong challenger for England's midfield spots should he continue his fine scoring record.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

LONDON • In football, nobody stays the newest talent for long. Somebody fresher and younger always comes along to challenge the established order.

That is what teenager Dele Alli's promotion to the England senior squad does, especially where Ross Barkley, 21, is concerned.

There are enough similarities to have Barkley looking over his shoulder. Alli, too, is an explosive athlete blessed with ability.

The 19-year-old has a similar sense of adventure and is also hard to categorise: attacking, defensive or box-to-box midfielder, he should be able to play them all.

If the Tottenham youngster proves capable when he steps up, Barkley's status as Roy Hodgson's "one for the future" will be over.

The Everton midfielder has played 15 senior internationals without putting all his attributes together to produce a big, sustained performance. At times he has delighted Hodgson and his staff, at other times he has frustrated them.

Alli's appearance may make them just that little less patient with Barkley. It was striking that Hodgson picked out scoring as Alli's key potential asset to an England team.

"I had a long chat with (Spurs manager) Mauricio (Pochettino)," Hodgson said. "Alli is going to be one of those players who is good coming from a midfield position forward, as Steve Gerrard and Frank Lampard were.

"We're always looking for midfielders who can score and we haven't been blessed with that in the past few years."

Alli scored 16 times for MK Dons last season and his career record is more than one goal every four appearances (better than Gerrard and approaching Lampard's ratio).

Hodgson could hand him his England debut against Estonia today - after just four English Premier League starts and his first top-flight goal - with a view to trying him as a central midfielder.

The England manager has tended to use Barkley as an attacking midfielder, but in last month's 2-0 win against Switzerland, Barkley played mainly in central midfield.

Chances at the attacking midfielder position may become more limited thanks to increased striking options that, with Daniel Sturridge back in the squad for the November friendlies, will allow Hodgson to look at ways to blend him, Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane, with Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck also contending.

If Barkley is to establish himself, it may have to be in central midfielder unless he piling up the goals for club and country.

His career record is less than one goal in seven but an upturn - and greater consistency - for Everton this season is encouraging.

He has three goals and four assists in nine games for Everton in all competitions this season.

"His chance does increase when he's playing for Everton and winning, and he's doing well," said Hodgson.

"Players have to accept that, if you want to be that midfielder who is really a forward - especially if you play behind one forward - you have to score goals."

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2015, with the headline 'Alli could upstage Barkley in England midfield'. Print Edition | Subscribe