'Wild horse' Dele Alli won't be tamed by Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino
LONDON -- Mauricio Pochettino has likened Dele Alli to a "wild horse" but says he has no plans to tame the Tottenham Hotspur stallion.
Alli scored 10 goals and was named PFA Young Player of the Year in a stunning debut season at White Hart Lane but his brilliance was tempered by a fiery unpredictability, and he was also booked 10 times.
He scored a breathtaking goal and was accused of stamping on Yohan Cabaye in Spurs' 3-1 win at Crystal Palace in January, while Pochettino said Alli had "a lot to learn about elite football" after he appeared to kick Fiorentina's Nenad Tomovic the following month. He missed the final three league games of the campaign through suspension after punching West Brom's Claudio Yacob.
Last week Pochettino said the 20-year-old, who has been booked just once in 11 appearances this season, was more "mature" now but the Spurs manager believes Alli's "wild side" makes him the player he is.
"It is all a process with the younger lads to be more mature, with more experience, now more focused on playing football," Pochettino explained.
"It is like when you have a wild horse and you need to put it in a box and domesticate it. No? He is a big talent but he was a bit wild. Now he is more domesticated. But you can never lose that wild side. That side might make him a special player.
"He is special, a great guy. We have a very good relationship. He is a very emotional person and I think we all love him."
Pochettino has repeatedly called on his side to be more clinical this season and no player is more guilty of missing chances than Alli. He has had more attempts without scoring -- 10 -- than anyone else in the Champions League, while he had more shots -- 12 -- at Euro 2016 without getting a single one on target than any other player, despite only playing in four matches.
Alli missed a free header in the first half of Tottenham's 0-0 draw at Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday but, for Pochettino, Alli's finishing is not an issue.
"It [the chance] looked easy but in the game it was a very difficult action. It was a great cross from Kieran [Trippier] but Dele arrived a little bit pushed and it wasn't easy. Of course he works a lot on his finishing but the situation was difficult in that moment because when he connected with the ball he was not balanced.
"There is nothing to say about Dele. I am more than happy with him, the effort in every game. He plays a lot, he brings to the team many positive things. And if every chance that he has he will score, maybe we are talking about a [Marco] Van Basten or a [Gabriel] Batistuta -- a striker. Not an offensive midfielder, a No. 10," Pochettino continued.
"He has the characteristics of a number of different players. He is one of the best offensive midfielders in England now but he can still improve. It is very difficult for him to compare to other players because he is special and different to other players.
"He works hard, he presses, he scores, he creates chances. I think it is unbelievable all the effort he makes in every game. It is not easy to be fresh in every action. But I am more than happy with him.
"When you watch every game, the chances he has he can score. He is capable of creating his own chances."
While Pochettino is unconcerned, Alli has admitted he should have scored more than three goals so far this season.
"Personally I want to beat my target from last year and the only way to do that is to get in and around the box and be getting on the end of chances," Alli said.
"I could have been in double figures by now with the chances I've been missing. It's important to get in the right positions but I need to start being more clinical."
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.