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23rd Dec 2017

What will it take for Dele Alli to get sent off?

Another week, another dangerous tackle

Robert Redmond

Dele Alli really got on the wrong side of the crowd at Turf Moor on Saturday.

The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder played a big part in his side’s 3-0 win over Burnley in the Premier League fixture, winning a penalty which Harry Kane subsequently dispatched after seven minutes. Burnley’s Kevin Long challenged for the ball, missed it and made minimal contact with Alli, who went to ground and won the penalty. The defender didn’t get the ball, but as Steven Gerrard said on BT Sport at half-time, “Dele was waiting for the contact.”

However, another incident a few minutes earlier got the crowd equally wound-up.

The 21-year-old was booked for a reckless, senseless and late challenge on Charlie Taylor. Alli wiped the Burnley full-back out with the tackle, just four minutes into the game.

Of course, this isn’t the first overly-aggressive, potentially dangerous and ultimately pointless tackle we’ve seen from Alli. Maybe this exact challenge wasn’t worthy of a red card, but it was the type of tackle that should be punished. And it certainly won’t be the last tackle of this type we see from the England midfielder.

In truth, Alli shouldn’t have even been on the pitch on Saturday evening. He should have been serving the first game of a ban for this horror foul on Kevin de Bruyne during Manchester City’s 4-1 win over Spurs last week.

Somehow, the referee only booked Alli for the dangerous tackle on the best player in the league. He only received a yellow card for this:

Both players were extremely lucky in this incident. Alli was fortunate to remain on the pitch, and De Bruyne was lucky to not have his ankle broken. It could be argued that this incident suggests that the Spurs midfielder will have to do a lot worse to recieve a red card, because the challenge on De Bruyne was very dangerous and reckless. It should have been the easiest red card a referee has ever had to award.

However, even if he doesn’t get sent-off in the Premier League this season, Alli’s luck will run out if he tries this type of challenge in Europe or on the international stage. After the last two games, and two completely pointless and potentially dangerous challenges, it’s not difficult to imagine England’s World Cup campaign collapsing following a moment of indiscipline from the Spurs midfielder.

His star status as one of England’s best players appears to earn him the benefit of the doubt with Premier League referees and football pundits. Unsurprisingly, on BT Sport neither Gerrard or Jermaine Jenas thought Alli should have been sent-off for the challenge on Taylor. The chances of the pair calling out the player for his nasty challenges were about as likely as a Premier League referee having the balls to send-off England’s great hope. As former Manchester United, Leeds United and Republic of Ireland midfielder John Giles wrote earlier this week about Alli:

“There’s a big difference between making allowances for a young footballer who is learning how to control himself in a high-pressure environment and making excuses for inexcusable behaviour.”

Ultimately, when a pundit makes an excuse for Alli, and when a referee doesn’t give him a red card when a tackle clearly warrants it, they’re doing the player a disservice. He is being positively reinforced for negative behaviour, and thus unlikely to amend his ways. The tackle on Taylor might not have been a red, but the challenge on De Bruyne certainly was but wasn’t adequately punished. These type of tackles appear to be an aspect of Alli’s game, and therefore he’s unlikely to cut them out anytime soon, especially if he continues to get away with them.