Bale the Star, but Spurs the Match Winners
Gareth Bale had been threatening to score all afternoon against a resolute West Brom team. However when he finally did, putting aside the media fanfare and the tabloid hyperbole, the goal had more to do with the team than the individual.
The Welshman is without doubt in a rich vein of form. It is quite unbelievable that he has progressed from an Albatross round our necks, to a fully kitted out recuse Chinook, but still there is still room for improvement.
The first two months of 2013 has shown us the wonderful, yet also the marginalized side of Bale. Having been nullified against Man Utd and QPR, under what must be AVB’s tutelage, Bale has started to move inside and operate centrally. here he is involved in the game but the same issues remain for the Welshman.
Without space Bale is a good player, but not great.
This key commodity is one that Bale needs to thrive, but without the help of his team-mates, he will never find it. During the second half at the Hawthorns, the number 11 prodded, sprinted and turned searching for that yard to open the Baggies up, but it never came. His frustration was growing as he appeared intent to run at more and more defenders, but then the moment came. Bale was brilliant but his team-mates were better.
Spurs worked the ball right with quick one or two touch passes. Lewis Holtby, Kyle Walker and Aaron Lennon all made quick forward movements, and when the ball was finally threaded into Bale he found himself one-on-one vs James Morrison. The rest is now part of his wonderful show reel, but without those three pulling an increasingly ragged West Brom defence inside then back, it may not have happened.
The comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo may be early, but the goal Spurs scored was all Barcelona. The Catalan giants are masters playing against defensive units. Barca may benefit from the genius of Leo Messi and co, but the simplicity of their game is one that Spurs need to start adapting if they are to benefit from an having an asset like Bale. Quick, incisive passing, switch it left, come back in, have players willing to move into space, but not always receive the ball. The key isn’t what you do with the ball but what you do without it.
At White Hart Lane this season the urgency from some to: “Get the ball forward” has left me more annoyed than the early season booing. Speed is nothing without space, a cheetah may be fast as lighting, but in a confined space with a Cobra I wouldn’t be too hopeful on a pair snake skin boots coming your way.
The longer Tottenham remain at the top of the Premier League, the more teams will come to respect us and try to nullify us. This season the greatest compliment we have been afforded was Man United abandoning their free flowing attacking plan in order to keep Bale and Co quiet. Our opposition is adapting, and so are we.
Take a look through or starting eleven then try and claim AVB hasn’t been backed. A sweeper keeper, a ball playing centre back, centre mid as good on the ball as off it and a physical (although currently absent) stirker. The manager has taken players who were good under previous regimes and made then more effective, clear benefactors are Lennon and the now injured Jermain Defoe. Andre Villas-Boas was appointed to move us from simply running around, to the more refined nuances of the modern game.
Slow, slow, slow, slow then lighting quick. That’s how we scored on Sunday and that’s how Barcelona and Spain have taken the footballing world by storm.
Look back over the ages, Brazil 1970 & 82, Italy 1982, AC Milan mid-to-late 90’s and modern day Barca. These teams didn’t get the ball forward quickly at all costs; they were patient and believed in their system. This is where AVB is looking to take us, whether he succeeds or not time will tell, but in the meantime we need rather like Spurs on the ball, remain patient.
Bale is a player who can make the difference, but it’s the team that are the match winners.