Dele Alli has been told by England manager Gareth Southgate he faces a battle to win back his place in the international squad.
Southgate dropped Alli from his group to face Czech Republic and Bulgaria in England’s forthcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers, while also leaving out Alli’s Tottenham team-mate Eric Dier and Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard.
After playing in five of England’s seven matches at the 2018 World Cup, Alli’s season was hampered by injuries in 2018-19 and his problems coincided with Tottenham’s dip in form in February.
The 23-year-old playmaker has played just 30 minutes of Premier League football this season, having recovered from a thigh injury, and Southgate said he has yet to return to his best form.
“I think the last 12 months in particular has been frustrating for him,” Southgate told reporters.
“He’s had this sort of string of hamstring injuries where he’s always been coming back up to the level, so that’s definitely been the situation at the beginning of this season, not quite yet at full match fitness.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) October 1, 2019
“He’s got a fight on his hands at his club, it’s a strong squad now, so there’s competition for places depending on the system that they play, but he’s an asset and we all know that and I know his mentality and drive will be to get back in.”
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has played Son Heung-min, Christian Eriksen and Moussa Sissoko in a line of three behind Harry Kane in Tottenham’s recent fixtures, or deployed Eriksen and Erik Lamela as wingers behind a front two of Son and Kane.
Meanwhile, Southgate has utilised Jadon Sancho, Declan Rice and Mason Mount in recent England games, shifting the focus from experienced international players like Alli and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to those who he feels need time to bed into his plans ahead of Euro 2020.
“I think when you’re selecting a squad, the players need to see some sort of meritocracy when possible,” said Southgate.
“With Dele [Ali] and Alex [Oxlade-Chamberlain] in particular, they haven’t really had the number of games this year to get themselves into a rhythm. They’re both recovering from different injuries, one long term, one a bit shorter term.
“But we want to look at some of the young players. Let’s invest time in some of those younger players. Let’s have a closer at them, knowing that we’ve got to keep winning matches now by exposing people to the level and the environment and seeing how they cope with it.”