'Football is About Tricking Your Opponent': Mauricio Pochettino Wades into Dele Alli Debate

Mauricio Pochettino has defended Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli amid a debate over diving, claiming football is all about gaining advantages over your opponent.

Alli was booked for simulation during Tottenham's 2-2 draw with Liverpool on Sunday (February 4), the third time he has been punished for diving since he made his debut in 2015.

Pochettino refused to accept it as a big issue, insisting that this type of deception has been happening in English football long before Alli, 21, was born.

"Twenty years ago, 30 years ago, it was like 'all congratulate the player when he tricks the referee'," Pochettino said, as quoted by the Daily Mail. "In Argentina, but in England too.

"You believe that in England you were honest and always perfect. That is the football that I was in love with when I was a child. Football is about trying to trick your opponent. Yes or no?

"What does tactic mean? You do some tactics to try to trick the opponent. You say, 'Oh I play on the right but I'm going to finish on the left.' It's a mix that I am worried that maybe we are going to kill the game.

"The problem now is that we are so sensitive about the situation. And then we are so focused on Dele Alli."

Dele Alli and Mauricio Pochettino
Dele Alli, left, and Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham Hotspur's Enfield Training Centre, north-east of London, December 5, 2017. Pochettino says Alli being booked for diving is a "minimal issue." OLLY GREENWOOD/AFP/Getty

Since England international Alli made his debut for Tottenham, he is the most booked player for diving in the Premier League. But when Alli was booked for simulation against Burnley in September, Pochettino warned him about his conduct.

"He must learn," Pochettino said. "This type of action doesn't help him, doesn't help the team and doesn't help football.

"We have been talking in the last few years about fair play, to be honest. I think he is improving a lot and learning but still he must learn."

Alli has been an integral part of Pochettino's team over the past couple of seasons, this year helping them to fifth in the Premier League table.

Tottenham are in action on Wednesday against Newport County in a fourth round FA Cup replay before facing Arsenal in the Premier League on Saturday.

Pochettino's team are fighting on three fronts, having progressed from the group stages of the Champions League. But they face Serie A champions Juventus in the last 16 this month.