Frank Lampard says Dele Alli has a point to prove at Everton and insists the midfielder’s appetite for the game is not in question.
The 25-year-old has not started for Lampard’s relegation-threatened team since his deadline-day move from Tottenham, making six appearances from the bench. Alli’s minimal impact, after the sharp decline in his Spurs career, prompted Stan Collymore to suggest the former England international should considering retiring if he has lost hunger. Lampard has taken issue with Collymore’s criticism but accepts Alli needs to prove his detractors wrong over the final two months of the season.
The Everton manager said: “I saw those comments and it is important to broach them because I know Stan a little bit and he had difficulties which he has been open about in his career. I understand where he is coming from on his own front, but to speak about someone you do not know or put them in the same bracket was a bit much.
“From my point of view I have the familiarity of working with Dele every day and I do not see a player who wants to retire at that age. That is a strong comment. What I do see – and people can put it that way – is he has a lot to prove. The basics are that when you have a lot to prove you have to get your head down, listen and prove people wrong on the pitch. That starts on the training pitch.”
Lampard says Everton’s desperate need to pull clear of the relegation zone, combined with Alli’s lack of match sharpness when he arrived, has complicated the midfielder’s start.
“People were talking about Dele as one of the top young players in the world, let’s be honest,” he said. “He has been eligible to play seven league games. I always believed it would take some time. We are in a situation now where every game we go into, my selection thought is this has to be the best team possible to win this game. Dele has to train and show he is in that thinking, and every time he comes on he has to show he is worthy of starting a game.
“I am not saying he has not done that. Some players say they are better when they start. I said that as a player. The reality from my side of the fence is you work on the individual. I am seeing him work and when the time is right and I feel he is there and will help the team, he will do it. He is the same as every other player when it comes to that.”
Lampard is considering including the 18-year-old Isaac Price in his squad for Sunday’s visit to West Ham. The central midfielder, a Northern Ireland youth international, impressed while training with the first team during the international break.