Dele Alli has the potential to become a “special” player for England, says team-mate Adam Lallana – provided he’s not crushed by early expectation.
Lallana and Alli were pushed up as supporting attackers in Wednesday’s 1-0 friendly loss in Germany, turning in eye-catching performances in Gareth Southgate’s re-jigged 3-4-2-1 system.
Both players had wonderful chances to put the visitors ahead before half-time in Dortmund, Lallana hitting the post after a fine solo run and the Tottenham man denied by Marc-Andre ter Stegen after going clear in the box.
Although he was frustrated not to do better on that occasion, Alli’s all-round performance, full of neat touches and tricks, was hugely promising for a player still three weeks shy of his 21st birthday.
“Dele is special. I love the way he goes about his business: no fear, he’s brave,” said Lallana.
“That’s what makes him ‘him’. All players have different attitudes that make them what they are and that’s why he is unique and a special talent.
“But people still need to be patient with him. He is still a young boy and performing how he does is way above his years. He is not even 21 yet.
“It is important that we don’t get carried away.”
England started with a back three for the first time in 11 years at Signal Iduna Park and, although they could not stop Lukas Podolski marking his farewell international appearance with a long-range thunderbolt, the tactical experiment may not be a one-off.
Captain-for-the-night Gary Cahill was integral to the system, having played it for most of the season under Antonio Conte at Chelsea, and he feels it could be a useful string to the bow once the players have had a chance to perfect it.
“We only had one day to get on the training pitch and play it this week,” said the 31-year-old, who is suspended for Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania at Wembley.
“It’s hard because we had one training session together with a totally different system, one day to learn it then travel over here. But it gives us another alternative and with the players we’ve got I think we can master that formation.
“If we can get one or two systems under our belt, if we can play them and know them it’s only going to be beneficial for us. If we’re struggling in a game we can flip to another formation.”