Tottenham: Why Dele Alli gets the best out of Harry Kane - Jermaine Jenas

Match of the Day 2 analysis

Harry Kane beat Romelu Lukaku in Sunday's battle of the Premier League's top scorers, but Tottenham's 3-2 win over Everton demonstrated again how big a part Dele Alli plays in his success.

There have been times this season, especially in Europe, when Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino has decided to play Alli out on the left and play Kane on his own up front.

When that happens, Kane looks isolated. It never seems to work.

Sunday showed how much Alli helps Kane when they play together, and vice versa. Between them, they scored three goals and, like an old-school strike pairing, they shared the workload as well.

Everton did not offer Lukaku anything like the same sort of support.

Like Kane, Lukaku is only 23 and still developing as a striker, and he is also banging in goals at a ridiculous rate.

But it was interesting to watch him and Kane in Sunday's game and, rather than examining their own individual strengths and weaknesses, look at what their teams did - or did not - do for them.

Alli has freedom when Spurs play three at the back

Kane scored twice against Everton and is now the highest Premier League scorer with 19 goals. Alli also found the net on Sunday and is seventh on the scorers' charts with 15 for the season
Kane scored twice against Everton and is now the highest Premier League scorer with 19 goals. Alli also found the net on Sunday and is seventh on the scorers' charts with 15 for the season

Going back to last season, the most obvious effect Alli has on Tottenham's attack is with the runs he makes beyond Kane to get behind the opposition defence.

Alli will always make good runs and, against Stoke and now Everton, he has made them to get into goalscoring positions - and taken his chances too.

He is a clever finisher, so those goals will keep coming for him, but it is the help he gives Kane when he finds pockets of space in front of the opposition back four that I think is having the biggest impact for Tottenham.

When Alli is close to Kane, whether he is occupying one of the centre-halves or making another centre-half think about which one of them he should be picking up, it gives Kane more space to operate in.

There are even times when Kane comes short to get the ball, leaving Alli as the Tottenham player who is highest up the pitch.

That flexibility is down to the extra freedom that Pochettino has given Alli this season, especially since he switched to playing three at the back at the start of November.

Tottenham's 3-4-2-1 formation against Everton
Mauricio Pochettino used three centre-halves for the first time as Spurs boss in November's draw with Arsenal but it has now become one of his regular formations

When Spurs play in a 4-2-3-1 shape, Alli has more responsibility to stick in a certain position but, with the 3-4-2-1 formation they used against Everton, he is allowed to roam to stay closer to Kane.

When Pochettino changed formation, the whole point was to help his attack. It was not because they were leaking goals - it was because they were not scoring enough.

It has worked, and Alli has been one of those to benefit.

I think it has been easier for him to score goals in 2016-17 than it was last season because, even though the opposition teams are watching him more, he is getting into better goalscoring positions because he is already higher up the pitch.

Managers would pick Kane - defenders hate to mark Lukaku

Everton's 4-3-2-1 formation
Everton, who were on a nine-game unbeaten run in the Premier League before they played Spurs, switched to a 4-3-2-1 formation after using a 4-3-3 in their previous two matches against Middlesbrough and Sunderland

While I saw what Alli and Spurs do to make Kane stronger, it was another story with Lukaku. In the Everton striker's case, I saw what might take him to the next level - but only from what his team were missing.

Kane had Alli and also Christian Eriksen playing around him at White Hart Lane, but Lukaku was in a completely different situation.

Everton manager Ronald Koeman got his tactics wrong, particularly in the first half, and gave Spurs too much respect.

I am not sure why he changed his approach because his side were on such a good run but they were very negative and their midfield played very deep.

Average position of Tottenham and Everton players
The average position of touches by Tottenham (l) and Everton (r) shows how Alli (20, left) was often Spurs' most advanced player. While seven Spurs players had their average positions in Everton's half, most of the Toffees team remained very deep

That meant Lukaku was up against three centre-halves on his own for most of the match.

These are the sort of occasions when people seem to scream at Lukaku to offer more - to make more runs for starters - but he was completely isolated against Spurs with no support until the latter stages of the match.

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Koeman pleased with Everton character

Lukaku keeps scoring goals, of course, so he must be doing something right.

But, because of his size and how strong he is, some people will always expect more. They want him to be dominating defences like Didier Drogba did in his prime for Chelsea.

I actually think that Lukaku is getting there. Most managers would probably choose Kane over Lukaku because of his consistency. Yet if you asked most defenders who they would rather mark, I bet you they would pick Kane.

That's because a lot of Kane's strengths come from having Alli and Eriksen around him - while, with his pace and power, Lukaku can be a beast on his own.

You have to have a reason to set off on runs

Kane v Lukaku
Harry Kane ran 10.6km on Sunday, compared to 9.4km by Lukaku. On average this season, the Tottenham striker has covered more than 1.5km more per 90 minutes than his Everton counterpart

As far as his running goes, it is true Lukaku covers less ground than Kane.

But there is a reason Kane is always on the run - he has got support around him and he knows the ball is coming.

That is the key thing here. As a player, when some of my team-mates got on the ball and I knew they could deliver a pass, I ran. If I didn't think they could find me, I was less likely to.

I remember going back to Nottingham Forest for a pre-season friendly soon after I left them to join Newcastle. My old manager Paul Hart said it was brilliant that I was making so many runs, but asked why didn't I do the same for him.

Without being disrespectful, I told him that I had Nobby Solano on one wing, who was so accurate that he could land a pass on a penny, and on the other I had Laurent Robert, who could deliver a ridiculously good cross into the box.

So I had got a reason to set off on runs, whereas at Forest I might have made five or six runs in a game and got one pass.

Everton have got the quality to find Lukaku more, of course, but I still think they are taking too many touches before they look for him.

Barkley is being held back by a lack of belief

Everton duo Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku
Barkley has scored four goals and made six assists in 25 Premier League appearances this season. As well as scoring 18 league goals, Lukaku has made four assists

With Ross Barkley, they have got a player with the same attributes as Alli too. The potential for a partnership like Kane and Alli is there.

Barkley did not have the same freedom of position as Alli did on Sunday but I still thought he played well, especially with the decisions he made when he was on the ball.

When Everton did come forward with a purpose, he was always a threat.

If there is an element of his game that I think Barkley could take from Alli, it is that he needs to keep the ball moving forwards when he picks it up in the opposition half. Too many times, his first touch seems to take him back into midfield instead.

But that could be put down to his confidence, because he seems to be in a different situation to Alli right now.

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Tottenham 3-2 Everton: Mauricio Pochettino 'proud' of fantastic win record

While Alli has emerged as a key figure for Spurs, Barkley will not have the same feeling that he is his team's main man.

He is close to it, but I feel that he is being held back from what he is capable of. That is partly as a result of some of the negative comments Koeman has made about him this season and also because he always seems to get moans and groans from the crowd if things do not go right for him.

If he was playing with the same belief as Alli, he would be a different beast.

Jermaine Jenas was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.

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