Slovenia vs England: Dele Alli looking to take control in Gareth Southgate's new Wembley dawn

Southgate has spoken repeatedly of the importance of bravery, risk-taking and style

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Dele Alli wants to take creative control of Gareth Southgate’s new England team. Southgate built his team on Saturday around Alli, playing him as a number 10, and was rewarded with a goal. Alli, in truth, should have scored a hat-trick.

Southgate has spoken repeatedly of the importance of bravery, risk-taking and style in his England team. He needs players who have the confidence to express themselves and to try things. That is exactly what he gets from Alli, who will surely be one of the most important players of the Southgate era, if he gets the job permanently.

Alli is still only 20 years old and is only just starting his second season of Premier League football. But he looks far more accomplished, and will only continue to grow as he plays in the Champions League with Tottenham this season. While Alli spent much of last season playing on the left of a 4-2-3-1, this year he has spent more time in central midfield, whether in 4-2-3-1 or Mauricio Pochettino’s new 4-3-3. That is a disciplined role but on Saturday, Southgate decided to unleash Alli, and was rewarded for it.

“I’ve always been looking to get goals and assists and to do that I need to be higher up the pitch,” said Alli, who enjoyed his afternoon in his more attacking role. “I missed a few chances today but I’ll put that behind me and keep on improving.”

Alli was playing just off Daniel Sturridge up front and knew that he had to leave the engine-room work to Jordan Henderson and Wayne Rooney. Alli can do the dirty work, as you would expect from someone who made his name in the lower leagues. But that is not his job in Southgate’s team.

“I like to play anywhere,” Alli said. “If I’m playing higher up the pitch it’s important I don’t get carried away and start dropping too deep and I stay in my position. Can I be the entertainer? I hope so. I like to enjoy the game and to have fun and express myself as much as I can. That’s the kind of thing that Gareth was saying to us before the game. So it suited me well.”

After Sam Allardyce, however briefly, Roy Hodgson and Fabio Capello, it certainly makes a difference to have an England coach who wants the players to go and play optimistic ambitious football. The players are clearly enjoying too. John Stones knows Southgate well, having played for him for England Under-21s. He will be as important as Alli to the England set up over the next 10 years.

Stones is a creative expressive player himself and relishes the new manager’s trust. “He has settled really well, and the boys have enjoyed training and worked well together in the past few days,” Stones said. “He’s got a calmness. He’s clear in what he wants from the us and that gets us all on the same page. He lets us express ourselves which us what us players want: the freedom to go and play our game. His belief in us is massive.”

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