Dele Alli thinks Tottenham's Champions League run has Russian roots

By Sports Desk April 21, 2019

Deli Alli believes Tottenham's dream run to the Champions League semi-finals is down to the success so many of their stars enjoyed at last year's World Cup.

Spurs had nine players reach the semi-finals at Russia 2018, though Mousa Dembele has now departed for the lucrative Chinese Super League.

Domestically a Premier League title challenge ended with damaging defeats to Burnley and Chelsea in February, while they were knocked out of the EFL Cup and FA Cup in the space of four days in January.

But Europe's greatest prize remains a distinct possibility after Spurs upset Manchester City over two legs to book a semi-final date with Ajax.

And England star Alli, part of the Three Lions team beaten by Croatia in the last four at the World Cup, believes their continental success has roots in Russia.

"I think it's definitely the case that what happened at the World Cup has helped us as a team," he said.

"We got a lot of experience from the tournament, in different situations, winning and losing. With that experience, we have begun to show that we are learning and that's what has happened in the Champions League.

"Each season we are improving, in both the Premier League and the Champions League. We are heading in the right direction and we have got to keep doing that.

"When I first came to Spurs, we had a great team, great players but maybe we didn't have the experience we needed when we got to this point of the season. But, by sticking together and having tasted various experiences, we are just getting better and better."

It has been 11 years since Spurs last won a trophy, while City's revenge 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday left their top-four hopes in the league this season in danger.

And Alli is under no illusions that Tottenham have to turn potential into success.

"Of course, we want to challenge for trophies. We've had seasons where we have come so close and we should have probably been closer in the Premier League again this season," he added. 

"There were a few poor games at crucial points of the season, but it's switched around again.

"We still have to make sure we finish in the top four again, which we should have made much more comfortable than we have.

"We will have to manage the games coming up, there has to be a strategy. But we are in the semi-finals now, so there is no reason why we can't believe." 

Related items

  • Nkunku leaves PSG for RB Leipzig on five-year deal Nkunku leaves PSG for RB Leipzig on five-year deal

    RB Leipzig have signed Christopher Nkunku from Paris Saint-Germain in a deal reportedly rising to €15million.

    The France Under-21 international has signed a five-year contract with the Bundesliga outfit after failing to nail down a regular starting place in Paris.

    It is believed Leipzig have paid an up-front fee of €13m, with a further €2m potentially due in bonuses.

    Nkunku, a midfielder developed at PSG, made 22 Ligue 1 appearances under Thomas Tuchel last term, starting 13 times.

    In arriving at Leipzig, he becomes the third new addition to Julian Nagelsmann's squad, after Hannes Wolf and Luan Candido.

    "I have heard a lot about the club and am convinced that the way football is played here suits me very well," Nkunku said.

    "I already know some of my new team-mates: I've played with Jean-Kevin Augustin in Paris, and with Dayot Upamecano and Nordi Mukiele for France.

    "I'm optimistic that I can come here and settle quickly."

    Nkunku is not the only young player on the way out of PSG.

    The French champions have allowed teenage attacker Virgiliu Postolachi to leave for Ligue 1 rivals Lille, where he has agreed a four-year contract.

  • Emery makes young player pledge as Nketiah states case for Arsenal Emery makes young player pledge as Nketiah states case for Arsenal

    Unai Emery vowed to give high-performing youngsters a chance at Arsenal following Eddie Nketiah's late winner against Bayern Munich in the International Champions Cup.

    England Under-21 international Nketiah converted at close range in the 88th minute in California to give the Gunners a 2-1 victory over the German champions.

    Nketiah, 20, also impressed in the recent 3-0 friendly defeat of Colorado Rapids and could be set to add to eight his Premier League appearances, all of which have come as a substitute.

    Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson, fresh from a productive loan spell at Bundesliga side Hoffenheim, were among the others to win meaningful minutes at Dignity Health Sports Park.

    "We have a responsibility with young players to give them chances," Emery told reporters.

    "We want to use different young players to help.

    "Some players will be with us in pre-season; some players will be with us in the season. Each minute they show their performance against big players. For example, the [duel] Nketiah [won] against [Niklas] Sule.

    "Today was very positive. Against Colorado Rapids a lot of young players played. We need them for the moment but also in the future.

    "Our responsibility in this club for the history, present and future is to give young players a chance."

    Homegrown prospects could prove especially useful amid doubts over Arsenal's spending power, with teenager Gabriel Martinelli the only addition of the close season to date.

    Freddie Ljungberg's promotion from Under-23 head coach to first-team assistant should expedite their emergence and Emery praised the Swede's "very positive" start to his new role.

    "With Freddie we are working," the former Sevilla boss said.

    "Above all he's helping us with the young players because he knows every young player better than us."

  • De Ligt to Juve: Opta data reveals danger to Bonucci De Ligt to Juve: Opta data reveals danger to Bonucci

    Juventus have won the race for Matthijs de Ligt and handed Maurizio Sarri an €85.5million asset set to immediately challenge for a starting spot.

    The Netherlands international commanded the attention of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and more before agreeing a five-year contract in Turin.

    De Ligt, 19, captained Ajax with distinction in Europe and the Eredivisie last term and compiled a set of statistics consistent with a player who could change the look of Serie A's strongest defence. 

    Our dive into the Opta data illustrates why one half of Juve's established centre-back pairing might be looking over his shoulder.

    Bonucci battle brewing

    De Ligt has walked through the doors at Allianz Stadium in rather more triumphant fashion than Leonardo Bonucci did almost 12 months ago.

    The Italy international returned from an ill-fated stint at AC Milan and resumed his partnership with Giorgio Chiellini at the heart of the four-man defence regularly employed by Massimiliano Allegri.

    The results were not as intended.

    Juve conceded more goals – 30 – in Serie A than in any of their previous seven title-winning campaigns, and were breached twice in the Champions League on four separate occasions.

    De Ligt could apply serious pressure to the 32-year-old's position.

    New boss Sarri favours a 4-3-3 system and his shiny new acquisition outperformed fellow right-footer Bonucci in most key defensive measures last term.

    Across all competitions, De Ligt won more duels (5.48), aerial contests (3.77) and tackles (0.61) per 90 minutes, while also completing a greater average number of clearances (3.95) and recoveries (6.53).

    Dwarfed in each category by the Dutchman, Bonucci ranked last behind Chiellini, Daniele Rugani and the now-retired Andrea Barzagli for duels (3.02), aerial contests (1.75) and clearances (2.86).

     

    Aerial prowess an alternative weapon

    Sarri's Chelsea were accused of being a one-dimensional team that sought only to break opposition sides down through often tedious passing sequences.

    Alvaro Morata and Gonzalo Higuain floundered in their attempts to spearhead the front three and the Blues scored the fewest goals of all top-six sides in the Premier League.

    Tormenting defences domestically should be no trouble for Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, Moise Kean and Juve's high-class attacking cohort, but Sarri would be wise to seek out a variety of scoring sources for an assault on multiple fronts.

    In De Ligt, he has an aerial ace capable of climbing above any pack.

    The 19-year-old conjured seven goals for Ajax last season: three in the Eredivisie, one against rivals Feyenoord in the KNVB Beker, and a further three in the Champions League.

    Six of those were headed, including the towering effort which knocked Juve out of Europe while he also nodded an equaliser for Netherlands in their Nations League victory over England.

    Bonucci, scorer of three goals, was the only Bianconeri defender to manage more than two.

    Crucial interventions in big matches could tip the selection scale in De Ligt's favour.

     

    Durability threatens established order

    In the wake of Barzagli's retirement and the end of Martin Caceres' short-term loan, Juve reinforced their defensive stocks by signing Turkey international Merih Demiral from Sassuolo.

    The 21-year-old will almost certainly find his place in the pecking order behind Rugani, a favourite of Sarri's since their time together at Empoli.

    Bringing in a fifth centre-back to compete for one of two positions could lead the Italian champions to consider replenishing a diminished bank balance.

    Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City have reportedly shown interested in Bonucci, whose future is at least less certain than that of captain Chiellini.

    What is in no doubt is De Ligt's readiness to carry the load required of a regular starter.

    Throughout a demanding 2018-19 season, the reigning Golden Boy award winner turned out more times (55) than Chiellini and Rugani combined. Bonucci, Juve's top appearance-maker, started 14 fewer games.

    Sarri demonstrated appreciation for a high degree of availability as he consistently paired David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger together at Stamford Bridge until a knee injury removed the latter from calculations.

    Now, armed with hard evidence of De Ligt's excellence, the Bianconeri boss might forge a fresh partnership in Turin to herald the beginning of a new era.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.