Mauricio Pochettino encourages Dele Alli to maintain 'naughty' side to his game
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 ahead of their Premier League clash with West Brom.
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."
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 the Baggies visit north London for Saturday's early kick-off.
West Brom 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.
"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.
"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."
Meanwhile, Baggies boss Tony Pulis insists Albion must move on after midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin joined Everton in a deal worth B#24million from Manchester United this week after the Baggies made an B#18million offer, while fellow target Jeff Schlupp has joined Crystal Palace.
Pulis wants to strengthen with quality over quantity as West Brom hunt a new winger and midfielder. They will also enter the market for a striker if Saido Berahino leaves.
Albion go to Tottenham in the Premier League on Saturday with Pulis philosophical after Schneiderlin's switch to Goodison Park.
"We missed out on Schneiderlin which was disappointing but I understand why," the manager told a press conference.
"After Morgan there was still money to go for others as well. We've got people we'd like to bring in, whether we can is another matter.
"It's a small pool we're fishing from. I don't want to get into a situation where there's a lot of players here and you don't know how good they are."
Berahino could also finally leave Albion this month, with his contract up at the end of the season and Stoke in talks with the Baggies over a transfer, but Pulis is in the dark over the specifics.
"I haven't got a clue what will happen," Pulis said.
"There's no sign of him signing his contract (that the club have offered him). We're still in limbo. It's not just Stoke - there's other clubs interested as well."
Jonny Evans is out of Albion's game at Spurs with a calf problem while the club are still waiting for confirmation from Cameroon over whether Allan Nyom can play after he was left out of their African Nations Cup squad.