Mauricio Pochettino hails 'killer' instinct of Tottenham ace Dele Alli
Mauricio Pochettino has labelled Dele Alli a "killer" and urged the Tottenham man to maintain a naughty side to his game.
Alli has been in scintillating form for Spurs this season and has already scored 11 goals, including seven in his last five outings.
The 20-year-old midfielder signed a new long-term deal at White Hart Lane at the start of the campaign and has proven to be a pivotal part of Pochettino's side.
Alli has notched 20 goals in his first 52 Premier League games, a better scoring return than the likes of Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard yielded at the same stage in their respective careers.
And Pochettino believes Alli's lethal instinct is to thank for his seemingly natural eye for goal.
"Dele Alli, for me, he's a killer because he's very aggressive when he runs forward," the Spurs head coach said.
"He's desperate to go to the box and to get the ball and score. That is an unbelievable mentality and that is because he's a very special player.
"He can play like an offensive player and he can play like a midfielder because of his characteristics. He can run box to box, he can run 12.5 or 13km, and all those characteristics make him a very special player.
"He's not like Harry Kane, he cannot be our top scorer like him, but for his characteristics he has goals. He's desperate to score, he's very aggressive into the box. He deserves a lot of credit, all the praise he's receiving."
Alli came off the bench in Tottenham's 2-0 FA Cup third-round win over Aston Villa last weekend but is expected to return to the starting line-up when West Brom visit north London for Saturday's early kick-off.
The Baggies have a good recent record at White Hart Lane and have not lost there in over five years - including a 1-1 draw in April which dealt a blow to Tottenham's ultimately forlorn title hopes.
Alli was sent off in that game for punching midfielder Claudio Yacob in the stomach, and his tenacious side has come out on more than one occasion.
Pochettino was forced to defend the England international after he aimed a kick at Fiorentina's Nenad Tomovic during a Europa League game last season.
After the game, Alli said of his actions: "My personality is that I like to express myself and that is not something I will look to change.
"Do you need an aggressive streak to thrive? You could say that. A lot of the great players have that mentality. I want to be the best I can and if that's what I need to do it, that's what I do."
And his manager has again told Alli to make sure he keeps part of that aggressive nature in his game even as he matures.
"I like a player who is that way," Pochettino said when asked if a player needs to be a little naughty.
"I think it is important. These people are clever in that way, to be competitive it is important that people respect you because to keep that point is important, not to be too naughty, but a little bit.
"Yes, it is true that he is still young but he has improved a lot and learned. That is important, that (punching Yacob) was one season ago, he is a very clever and smart guy.
"He is more mature now, he has learnt a lot.
"His personally is like a kid and he is intelligent and clever. On the football side he is intelligent, too. In both sides he can learn and improve because he is still very young."