Dele Alli’s name is doing the rounds, and deservedly so. Tottenham Hotspur were up against table toppers Chelsea last Wednesday. It wasn’t just about the teams in the fray, but what was at stake that drew a lot of eyeballs to the match. Chelsea had the opportunity to go nine points clear at the top, while Spurs had their task cut out to get back into the top four.

Chelsea were on a 13-match winning run and had the meanest defence in the league, not leaking goals to even the best of teams. With three at the back and two wing-backs, manager Antonio Conte brought out the best in the team by using all of his players’ strengths to the fullest.

Chelsea were the clear favourites running into the game, but Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino was adamant to turn it around. He went with a change in formation with three at the back, the likes of Danny Rose and Kyle Walker running down at Marcos Alonso Mendoza and Victor Moses, Moussa Dembele and Victor Wanyama taking control of the centre of the park, Alli behind Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen in a free role.

The tactic took the fans back to Stoke where the Potters applied a similar formation against Chelsea and faced a rout. But then, there was a stark difference in quality and the Spurs made it count. Alli jumped onto two scoring opportunities, quite literally, and helped Spurs get the better of the more fancied Chelsea side by a 2-0 scoreline and rise to third in the table, seven points off the table toppers and two behind second-placed Liverpool.

Alli brought his A-game to the park that day, getting the better of a stern defence of Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill and David Luiz. What was Chelsea’s forte was turned into their weakness with Alli’s movement and ability with the head, as he found space between Azpilicueta and Moses twice to help Spurs triumph.

Moses and Azpilicueta were Chelsea’s strong points, with Moses gaining a lot of recent plaudits for his new role as a wing-back. But the Nigerian was brought back to Earth by the brilliance of Alli. The same Chelsea side that hadn’t conceded a headed goal all season, let two in on the same night, bowing down to Alli.

Staggering stats

Alli thus secured a hat-trick of doubles, having done that in the previous two games as well, against Southampton and Watford. Not just that: Alli also went on to become the second-fastest Englishman to 20 Premier League goals, in just 52 games. The likes of Paul Scholes took 74 games, while the much celebrated trio of David Beckham (90), Frank Lampard (140) and Steven Gerrard (169) had taken even more time to get to terms with the Premier League and make their presence felt. Some might argue that they were deployed in a deeper role, but that doesn’t take away anything from the phenomenal feat of Alli and his rise to prominence.

This is how the stats rack up for best midfielders after 52 top-division matches in England:

The above stats provide a further testament of Alli’s prowess, with him standing tall against his counterparts at a tender age of 20. The thing that stands out about Alli compared with his English counterparts is his ability to move, pass, his pace and, to top everything, his aerial ability. The tall midfielder also has extreme physical strength and has been a powerhouse in the box and out of it, scoring and assisting from almost all positions and distances on the pitch. The youngster has come to terms with life in the Premier League instantly, in what is deemed to be a tough league.

Another big plus with Alli is his goals coming in good results for his side. Alli has scored in 16 games, of which 12 have been won by Spurs, while four have ended in a draw. Never have the Spurs lost a game where Alli has found the back of the net.

Alli already has 10 goals and one assist in the 20 games played in the season so far. He had scored 10 goals in the entire last season, after playing 33 games. His 20 goals since the start of last season is the most by any Under-23 player in Europe’s top five leagues. This shows how far the Englishman has come. He has gone on to become a pivotal figure for the Spurs.

Big-match player

It was Alli last year as well who scored in crucial games to help Spurs pile on the pressure on leaders Leicester City and stay in the hunt right till the end. Alli’s big-match temperament and resilience is one of his standout traits that see him stand ahead of the pack.

In recent news, Alli has drawn interest from the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona, with the teams set to get into a bidding war to acquire his services. Not every youngster at 20 gets such attention. It is only for the kind of performances the youngster has churned out and the immense potential he has given evidence of.

At just age 20, Alli has marked a niche for himself in the big list of star-studded English midfielders. With atleast another 10 years of top quality and highest level of football in him, Alli has all the makings of being one of England’s greatest midfielders of all time.