Mauricio Pochettino wants to help Dele Alli by starting him against Barnsley in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday but has called for patience with the Tottenham midfielder.
Alli has endured a turbulent start to the season. The 21-year-old is waiting to discover whether FIFA will hand him an international ban for the one-fingered gesture he made during England’s win over Slovakia earlier this month.
He is already serving a three-match suspension in the Champions League, therefore missing Tottenham’s win over Borussia Dortmund last week, while off the pitch the youngster is reportedly negotiating a change of agent.
Two goals against Burnley and Newcastle made for an encouraging start to the campaign but Alli’s form has dipped and he was particularly disappointing in Saturday’s goalless draw against Swansea.
Pochettino will rest several key players against Sky Bet Championship strugglers Barnsley but Alli will be given the chance at Wembley to regain momentum.
“Yes, he is going to play,” Pochettino said.
“I think he is still very young. His potential is massive. He did very well last season and it’s not easy for a young player to keep this level and show this level in every game.
“It is about maturity. It’s about finding your balance in training, competing, in your life, everything. The player is not only what we see on the pitch.
“He is not a number. We need to see the player as having a lot of things around them happening. He is not just furniture.
“There are a lot of things that affect them, that are around them when you are young. I was like Dele, I was from zero to 100. You need to find your balance.”
Alli enjoys a close relationship with Pochettino, who has leapt to his player’s defence after notable misdemeanours, including when Alli punched West Brom’s Claudio Yacob last year.
“I try to be fair with everyone and try to help every player in the squad,” Pochettino said.
“Then either me or my coaching staff will try to help him but we cannot arrive at every single space or situation. He needs the freedom to be natural and to express himself.
“The most important thing is to be there if he needs us and, sometimes, to try to help before he asks. Before he comes, we need to go. Then it’s up to the player, like always. But I think it’s only time.”
Alli has proven something of a revelation since starting his Tottenham career in 2015, winning the Premier League’s Young Player of the Year award for the last two seasons in a row.
Pochettino insists his form and confidence will soon return.
“I think it’s not the case today that the opponent knows how to stop him. I think it’s about him, how he is,” Pochettino said.
“He was a little bit like Harry Kane in August. He created more chances and had the possibilities to score a lot of goals but with less chances he scored more goals in August.
“That happens in football. We just have to help him, support him and push him every single day. Then, with the talent that he has, I am sure he will score again.”