Part of me was glad that Dele wasn`t that involved in the England friendlies this week. After all, he should be fit and raring to go to face Chelsea this weekend.
However, when he did make an appearance against the Netherlands on Friday, he really didn`t look himself. Southgate had hinted that there have been some underlying fitness concerns with the midfielder, and it could have played a part in his less than stellar cameo appearance.
Our no.20 misplaced a number of passes after he came on for Jesse Lingard with 20 minutes to go, and looked generally off the pace. The fact that he didn`t get off the bench against Italy has led to many articles in the national newspapers this morning questioning whether he has a place in the national team`s starting eleven for the World Cup.
It isn`t uncommon for journalists to make snap judgements on a player`s form even when they don`t see them play every week. For that reason, I don`t tend to take much notice of it especially if they generally watch them more when they are playing for their national side, than for their club.
Still, the midfielder`s form has not been as consistently good this season compared to last. I don`t think many would doubt that. At 21 years of age, I believe any player will still have some inconsistent performances in him; not everyone is Lionel Messi after all.
In some senses, Dele is paying for what was an outstanding season last term. He barely put a foot wrong all campaign, and any drop off from that level will be noticed by both us fans, and the press in general. Yet, his 16 assists this year are the best figures of his career so far.
Numbers can lie sometimes of course, but I think the major difference was that his finishing last season took him to another level; a standard that we expected him to stay at. A creator became a great supplier of goals as well. He should still surpass his 15/16 total of ten goals in all competitions so perhaps he has just reverting to his mean average in front of goal. That argument doesn`t ring true for me though. My feeling his that he just isn’t 100% currently, and we will see the best of him again sooner rather than later.
Has Dele performed much worse than last season? Let me know in the poll.