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Why are we so concerned with Dele Alli and diving?

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Another weekend, another debate about Dele Alli taking a tumble in the penalty box.

Rinse, repeat.

There should be no debate about the latest penalty kick he won late on against Rochdale in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Sunday. He was clearly fouled and both opposition players and their manager had no complaints as the nimble Englishman went down under contact.

Alli, 21, was brought off the bench to try and drag Spurs back into the game and he did just that with Harry Kane slamming home the spot kick Alli won to put Spurs 2-1 up late on, only for the Premier League side to let in a late equalizer against their third-tier opponents to set up a replay at Wembley in 10 days time.

Yet it is the constant hubbub around Alli and diving which is the biggest issue which needs to be addressed because we are not focusing on the problem of simulation and how best to solve it.

With three yellow cards for simulation while playing for Spurs in the Premier League (more than any other player since 2015-16), plus his manager Mauricio Pochettino saying he understands diving to gain an advantage after Tottenham’s controversial 2-2 draw at Liverpool earlier this month, Alli is in danger of being pigeonholed as a cheat, if he hasn’t been already.

Speaking after the FA Cup game this weekend, Rochdale manager Keith Hill discussed the 88th minute penalty being awarded and Alli’s actions.

“I’m led to believe he was looking for it, but why not? If players feel there is an opportunity to be gained then brilliant, I don’t hold it against him,” Hill said. “I don’t blame him and I don’t have a problem with it. Whether it’s him, Harry Kane or [Rochdale’s opening scorer] Ian Henderson, it doesn’t matter who does it. If he does that for England in the World Cup this summer then I will definitely be supporting him.”

Comments like this, although deemed to be supportive by Hill, are the reason why Alli is being branded a cheat. Instead of vilifying him, the bigger issue of simulation in the game should be the focus. But it’s not. Lengthy bans have been discussed, so too have sin bins, but nothing is really being done to eradicate the issue.

Yet if someone praises Alli for initiating the contact and going down, he’s hammered. If he’s criticized for going down too easily, he’s hammered. He’s in a lose-lose situation. But why is Alli being singled out for special treatment?

Quite simply, it’s because he’s a special talent and because he is the next great hope for England, even if this season he hasn’t quite lived up to the hype of being crowned the PFA Young Player of the Year in each of his first two Premier League campaigns. Pochettino’s recent honest comments (which he since stated were taken out of context as he doesn’t condone diving) haven’t done the reputation of his players much good with Kane, Erik Lamela and others also scrutinized heavily after recent tumbles in the box.

“To stop the game, to punish people. Some 20 years ago, 30 years ago, it was like all congratulate the player when he tricks the referee. If you remember the football 30 years ago. That is the football I was in love with when I was a child. Football is about trying to trick your opponent. You know? Yes or no? Tactic – what does tactic mean?,” Pochettino said. “When you do some tactics it is 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. We love this game.”

Purists within the English game have long lambasted and singled out foreign imports (rightly or wrongly) for taking tumbles in the box, going down too easily and trying to con referees into giving them an advantage.

Many foreign imports to the PL who have since admitted they were taught at a young age to go down if they felt contact in the box which further enraged the debate. Now, with the heavy international influence at each PL club, we have seen simulation become a bigger part of the English game over the past decade and more anger emerge from pundits, coaches and fans alike.

A new rule introduced this season to retrospectively ban any players found guilty of diving (if the incident wasn’t spotted at the time by the officials) has seen Oumar Niasse and Wilfried Zaha banned, although Zaha won his appeal against the decision, and it seems to be having some impact, but it’s still not doing enough to stamp out simulation in the English game.

The initial impetus officials had at the start of the season to try and get rid of simulation has dwindled and old habits are sneaking back into the game.

Is Alli the only player who goes down often? No. Yet the way Alli plays the game, we will more often than not see him clattered into in the box. He flicks and pokes balls past defenders and his relatively slight frame means he will likely go down under contact from a bruising center back or midfielder. That’s just science and it’s the same for many other talented attackers who are built for speed and agility rather than strength and power.

Alli’s reputation as a hothead supersedes these simulation allegations and previous bans for punching opponents in the stomach, lunging into tackles to be sent off and off the ball incidents certainly do him no favors in proclaiming his innocence.

But the vendetta building against him as a serial cheat needs to end before this vicious cycle gets further out of hand and his talent erodes amid the jeers from opposition fans.

It’s unlikely that Alli, like many players, will stop going down in the box anytime soon if he feels contact from an opposition defender. The sooner everyone starts to accept it, the sooner everyone can move on and focus on trying to eradicate serial simulation in the game once and for all. Be it with lengthy bans, sin bins or straight red cards, something drastic must be done.

That’s the bigger issue here. Not Dele Alli.

PL roundup: Citizens crack 70 points, Spurs grab North London Derby

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Get caught up on all seven of Saturday’s Premier League fixtures…

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Manchester City 5-1 Leicester CityFULL RECAP

Raheem Sterling gave the Citizens a lead inside three minutes, but it was Sergio Aguero’s second-half outburst that paced Man City to their league-leading 23rd win of the year. The Argentine international netted on four separate occasions after halftime to extend the lead to 5-1, after Jamie Vardy had temporarily cancelled out Sterling’s opener. Pep Guardiola‘s side now sit 16 points above second-place Manchester United with 11 matches remaining.

 

Tottenham 1-0 ArsenalFULL RECAP

At the moment, Mauricio Pochettino‘s side have gone third in the PL courtesy of Harry Kane‘s header. The Englishman has now scored seven goals in as many matches during the last seven North London Derbies.

Everton 3-1 Crystal PalaceFULL RECAP

The Toffees climbed to within two points of seventh-place Burnley behind an offensive outburst from the hosts. Gylfi SigurdssonOumar Niasse and Tom Davies all scored after halftime to bring Sam Allardyce‘s men up to 34 points on the season at Goodison Park. Palace’s lone goal on the day came through Luka Milivojevic, who converted a penalty kick late on after Ashley Williams conceded the spot kick via a handball.

West Ham United 2-0 WatfordFULL RECAP

The Hammers are now unbeaten in seven of their last eight, and have climbed up to 12th place after Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Marko Arnautovic found the back of the net on Saturday. Meanwhile, Watford is level on 30 points with West Ham, despite the Hornets boasting a superior goal differential through 27 rounds of play.

Stoke City 1-1 Brighton & Hove Albion — FULL RECAP

Xherdan Shaqiri helped capture a point for the Potters at the bet365 Stadium, after Jose Izquierdo had given Brighton the lead early on after a beautifully-executed team goal from the visitors. Stoke remains in 18th place on 25 points, while Brighton sits three points clear of a tightly-contested relegation battle.

Swansea City 1-0 Burnley — FULL RECAP

The Swans benefitted from Ki Sung-Yueng‘s second-half finish to go 15th place, while Burnley remains in seventh place despite the club having gone winless in their last 10 matches.

Everton 3-1 Crystal Palace: Toffees keep climbing

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  • Palace outshoots victors 16-11
  • Mangala leaves match injured
  • Sigurdsson, Niasse duel for Man of the Match

Gylfi Sigurdsson, Oumar Niasse, and Tom Davies scored second half goals as Everton climbed into ninth place with a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace at Goodison Park on Saturday.

The Toffees’ 34 points are two back of seventh place Burnley, who lost to Swansea City.

Luka Milivojevic converted a penalty for Palace’s lone goal. Roy Hodgson‘s Eagles are 14th, two points clear of the drop zone.

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Clever work from Sigurdsson eaned him space to rip a 25-yard shot across goal that just missed the far post.

New signing Alexander Sorloth started a play in Everton’s end that finished with a Luka Milivojevic bullet wide of the near post.

Sigurdsson then slipped Oumar Niasse on goal, but the Senegalese striker couldn’t finish his chance. And Sigurdsson missed a chance to shoot from the back post when Joel Ward dove to push a cross out for a corner kick.

Idrissa Gana Gueye forced a fine diving save from Wayne Hennessey with a dipping effort from distance.

Theo Walcott drew a free kick from Timothy Fosu-Mensah after dribbling through three or four Eagles in the 28th minute.

Yohan Cabaye forced Jordan Pickford into a save, and Christian Benteke was offside when he scored off the ensuing corner kick.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

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Everton fittingly found its opener through Sigurdsson moments after halftime. James Tomkins gave the ball away with a poor clearance and then saw Sigurdsson’s shot off a Niasse feed deflect off him and into the goal.

Niasse made it 2-0 when Cuco Martina chipped a cross toward the penalty spot and the Senegalese headed across the goal into the side netting.

Davies was in the catbird seat to score a 76th minute insurance goal after Sigurdsson’s tight angle pass bounded off Hennessey and onto his path.

Ashley Williams gave away a harsh penalty when he handled a close-range shot in the box. Pickford got both hands on Milivojevic’s attempt, but it carried into the goal.

Ramsey hat trick leads Arsenal demolition of Everton

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  • Aubameyang scores 1st Arsenal goal
  • Mkhitaryan sets up Ramsey’s first
  • Ramsey doubles season output
  • Gunners beat Everton 5-2 in reverse fixture

Aaron Ramsey scored a hat trick as Arsenal ran all over Everton in a 5-1 blowout at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Laurent Koscielny also scored for the Gunners, who stay sixth with 45 points.

Everton remains on 31 points, dropping to 10th behind Bournemouth and seven points above the drop zone. Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored for the Toffees.

According to the BBC, Ramsey is the 20th Arsenal player to record a PL hat trick, joining “Henry, Wright, Adebayor, Van Persie, Walcott, K.Campbell, Sanchez, Anelka, Arshavin, Bergkamp, Cazorla, Giroud, Kanu, Ljungberg, Overmars, Parlour, Pennant, Pires, Wiltord.”

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Arsenal was ahead before the clock hit six, with new boy Henrikh Mkhitaryan sliding a ball through the six for Ramsey to pass home.

Given a bit of room from Michael Keane, Mkhitaryan just missed on a laser from 25 yards in the 10th minute.

A corner kick saw Arsenal make it 2-0, as Koscielny’s diving header stopped a debut goal from Aubameyang. Both players had time thanks to lost loanee Eliaquim Mangala‘s marking.

Ramsey made it 3-0 in the 19th minute, his hard shot taking a hard turn off Mangala to defy Pickford’s hopes of a save.

Aubameyang had a chance to lift the lid on the pace with a 32nd minute charge toward goal, but Pickford closed him down.

He did score in the 37th minute, possibly offside, with a tiny chip over a sliding Pickford. And Monreal nodded a ball off the bottom of the cross bar and out as Arsenal attempted to set some recent records.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Everton didn’t quit, to their credit. Well, at least Oumar Niasse didn’t, sliding to put a ball off the post in a characteristic relentless effort.

Substitute Calvert-Lewin did dent the scoreboard for Everton, leaping over Sead Kolasinac to deny Petr Cech a 200th PL clean sheet.

Cech was injured shortly after the concession, and came out of the game for David Ospina.

Ramsey completed his hat trick in the 74th minute, doubling his season output in the Premier League.

Everton 1-1 West Brom: Walcott assists equalizer

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  • Krychowiak wonder pass puts WBA ahead
  • West Brom out-attempts Everton 15-9
  • Toffees level through Niasse
  • McCarthy suffers horrible leg break
  • Everton seven winless in all comps

Theo Walcott made an impact on debut as Everton came back to draw West Bromwich Albion 1-1 at Goodison Park on Saturday.

The match was Sam Allardyce‘s 1000th as a Premier League manager as Everton’s onto 28 points, seven points clear of the drop zone.

Walcott’s headed assist of a Wayne Rooney cross was deposited by Oumar Niasse, as Everton canceled out Jay Rodriguez’s opener. The Baggies sit three points back of 17th place Stoke City.

The match was delayed for seven minutes when James McCarthy suffered an ugly double leg break.

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The Baggies went ahead thanks largely to absurd pass from Grzegorz Krychowiak, who opened the lid on Everton’s back line with an outside of the boot pass to a perfectly-timed running Rodriguez.

What a pass.

A rare shot on target, the first in four hours and 10 minutes of league play for Everton, drew jeers from Goodison Park. Ironically, the shot from Jonjoe Kenny was dangerous and headed for the upper 90 when Ben Foster plucked it out of the sky.

James McCarthy suffered a gruesome injury in the 58th minute, when he lunged to get his leg between Salomon Rondon’s full-vigor shot and the ball. Rondon was close to tears after the incident.

Super sub Niasse made it 1-1 in the 70th minute, as Walcott rose to meet Rooney’s diagonal cross and nodded the ball into the path of the Senegalese striker.

Jordan Pickford made a pair of fine saves as West Brom looked to regain the lead, with Rondon remaining lively.

Mason Holgate headed a promising Gylfi Sigurdsson free kick over the bar in the 89th minute.

Rondon hit the cross bar in the sixth minute of stoppage time.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]