Where does Dele Alli fit in at PSG?

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Could Alli be off to PSG?

This season has been a difficult one for Dele Alli. He has found game time at Tottenham hard to come by, having made just four Premier League appearances. The Englishman seems to be very much out-of-favour under Jose Mourinho, sparking rumours of a potential exit for the 24-year-old.

The strongest rumours so far have been linking Alli with a move to Paris Saint-Germain, where he would be reunited with his former boss Mauricio Pochettino. The challenge for the Argentine then would be to work out how he could get the best out of Alli once more.

As we near the end of the January window, Alli is now priced at 4/9 to join PSG (loan deals don’t count), and Pochettino is reportedly keen to get a deal in some capacity completed.

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Where does Alli fit in at PSG?

The first issue to address is how the team should set up to get the best out of all the stars at the club. In their last game against Angers, Moise Kean started as the main striker, with Kylian Mbappe on the left, Angel Di Maria on the right and Neymar in the number 10 spot. None of the four forwards managed a goal, with Layvin Kurzawa having to step up from left-back.

If Alli is to come into this side then it would allow Pochettino to put his two star players, Mbappe and Neymar, back in their favoured positions, and get Alli back into where he found all of his success under his former manager at Spurs, just behind the striker. Mbappe would replace Kean as the central striker, Neymar would go back on the left-wing, although it must be added that Everton loanee Kean, has nine goals in 14 Ligue 1 games, which is only bettered by Mbappe’s 12 for the French champions. However, there can be no disputing Alli’s talent under Pochettino and this then allows for all four star players to play in familiar positions, playing to each of their strengths.

An alternative option for the team's shape would be to play Alli as a false nine with Neymar and Mbappe either side of him. This system, which is most commonly used by Liverpool, would allow for PSG to retain much of their midfield grit, similar to how Jurgen Klopp’s side have often lined up with a midfield of ‘runners’, such as Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner. This would be an unfamiliar role for Alli, but with his creative abilities and his goalscoring prowess, it may be an option worth exploring. Alli has shown in the past that when he is played further up the pitch he can thrive. At times under Pochettino at Spurs, Alli was deployed as a more orthodox central midfielder and was expected to fulfil his defensive duties as well as get forward and create.

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Where do the stats say he should play?

The Englishman is much more effective when pushed slightly further up the pitch, playing as a second striker. In the 2016/17 season, Alli enjoyed his most successful individual campaign, racking up 18 goals and nine assists in the league alone, in a system which often saw two more defensive-minded players sitting behind him, such as Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama. At PSG, the midfield is stacked with those more defensive-minded players, which can often see them over-rely on their attackers to create and score goals.

Alli coming into this side will offer them a more well-rounded midfield and take some of the pressure off Neymar, who is the main creative spark of the team. With the Parisians boasting midfielders such as Ander Herrera, Marco Verratti and Danilo Pereira, there is enough defensive cover in midfield to accommodate Alli, meaning he is free to roam and focus on creating.

Mbappe has struggled as of late, with the Frenchman scoring just twice in his last eight games – a poor return given the incredibly high standards he has set for himself. However, of those eight games, he has played six of them out on the wing, with his only two goals in that run coming when playing as a centre forward.

The World Cup winner has had to play on the wings due to the lack of options for PSG. Neymar has been out injured, but when he has been fit he has most recently been playing just behind the main striker, leaving a slot on the left wing that needed filling. If Alli is to join PSG, then this would give them a fresh option in attacking midfield, thus allowing Mbappe to return to the position in which he has been so lethal.

The 22-year-old has scored eight goals in seven games when playing through the middle, so it would be in the best interests of Pochettino to allow Mbappe to continue in this role and get Alli pulling the strings alongside one of the very best of this generation, Neymar.

By Luke Feather

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