Saturday, 31 March 2018

Dele Alli: I’m numb to criticism

Dele Alli insists he is numb to criticism, and says his role at Tottenham is changing as opponents become “more concerned” with him.

Alli’s goalscoring form has dipped this season, netting six times, though he has made more assists (nine) than he did in the entire 2016/17 campaign (seven).

Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of Tottenham’s trip to Chelsea on Sunday, Alli explained that when analysing his performances, he is seeing positives, and says he has developed a thick skin in the game.

“There are a lot of opinions, people say a lot in the media and online, but I’m numb to it now,” said Alli. “Growing up, you have to fight every day, coming into the Premier League you have to fight for your place in the team, and same as an international.

“Every player is different [in dealing with criticism], I think it’s all about your focus, what your focus is. Some people might focus a lot on what people are saying about them, which can take the focus away from the football. It can impact you.

“But for me, I’ve never worried too much about what people think. If you have confidence in yourself, you know yourself, better than anyone, when you have that, what other people say, automatically you are numb to it.”

Alli, who was PFA Young Player of the Year for the past two season, says opponents are becoming tougher with him, but he sees the positive side of the increased focus.

“I don’t think I’ve changed. The game is always changing, every game is unpredictable,” said Alli. “The way people deal with me in games is different; there are a lot more tackles. I found myself in a lot of space last year, and now when I get in the box I feel people are a lot more concerned about me, and marking me.

“It’s a good thing, but when I run off the ball now, running in behind, whereas last year they may not have followed me as much they follow me a lot more now.

“I think it’s good, it gives other players the space. We have a great team, so to make space for other players is a good thing.”

The 21-year-old will make his 100th Premier League appearance if selected against Chelsea on Super Sunday, and though the England midfielder says he is living the dream, he does not necessarily think he is achieving more than he expected.

“It has definitely gone quicker [than expected]. I don’t know if I could say I didn’t expect to do as well as I have. But I think you have to have that confidence coming into the Premier League anyway, and you don’t set limits on what you can achieve.

“There are times when you step back and think about what you’ve done, how different your life was three or four years ago. I remember when I was playing at MK, me and Benik Afobe would always say: ‘Imagine playing in the Premier League!’

“But at the same time you think this is what you’ve been working for all the time. Every step I was making at MK, everything was to get to this moment, so I’m not surprised, in a sense, that it happened.”

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