Tottenham Hotspur Half Term Report: Bale Now The Best Winger In The World

An impressive winning run, fluid football and a team that seems to be gelling, what's not to like at Tottenham?
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An impressive winning run, fluid football and a team that seems to be gelling, what's not to like at Tottenham?

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"Nobody move!.. I can sense a Sky Sports camera..."

An impressive winning run, fluid football and a team that seems to be gelling, what's not to like at Tottenham Hotspur?

What’s going right?

The much-publicised run of 11 wins from 13 games since September suggests that almost everything is going right.

The new signings have galvanised the club, with Brad Friedel and Scott Parker’s influence curbing our tendencies towards haemorrhaging goals and Emmanuel Adebayor’s movement, pace and work-rate in the lone striker role giving us a far more lethal cutting edge than that provided by Crouch last season.

Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon have re-discovered their best form and, most promisingly, have developed the ability to switch positions successfully, giving us pace, incision and unpredictability down both flanks. Most of Bale’s goals and assists have come from him surging through the middle or off the right this season, suggesting that opposition attempts to nullify him by sticking an extra full back on the pitch to mark him are no longer successful.

Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart continue to add guile and precision to our attacks, while the recent returns of Niko Kranjcar, Steven Pienaar and William Gallas from injury and the performances of Sandro, Jermain Defoe and most recently Roman Pavlyuchenko suggests that our squad is capable of sustaining a prolonged assault on the top three.

But the biggest plus this season has been the regular presence of our captain fantastic and talisman, Ledley King. He has started 10 of our 15 league games this season and completed 90 minutes in 9 of them; tellingly he missed each of the three games we have lost through injury.

What’s not?

It’s hard to complain about a striker who has returned 8 goals and 6 assists in 13 appearances, especially in his first season at a club, but Adebayor needs to be much more clinical. In the game against West Brom at The Hawthornes for instance, he scored twice from nine shots on target with a further five off. If he’d taken even half of the gilt-edged chances laid on for him so far, he would be right up with Robin van Persie at the top of the goal-scorers charts and there is a pervading concern that his regular profligacy will cost us soon, especially against top opposition.

The other main worry is how we can cope with injuries to big players. While Defoe’s goals and excellent performances have eased worries about van der Vaart’s regular muscular problems, replacing the dynamism of our wingers will be a different proposition. And we must use the upcoming transfer window to secure an additional creative midfielder and powerful striker, as there are no capable replacements for Modric or Adebayor currently at the club.

We must use the upcoming transfer window to secure an additional creative midfielder and powerful striker, as there are no capable replacements for Modric or Adebayor currently at the club.

Got the right manager?

I’ve never been a fan of Harry’s daily prostrations before the media and there have always been concerns over his tactical naivety, but this season has proved that there are few better managers around than the wily wheeler-dealer (don’t tell him I called him that).

The summer transfer window was so frustrating for Spurs fans, with hourly updates on the Modric saga and the usual penchant for doing all of our business on deadline day, but we started September with a much stronger first team and squad than we finished last season with; credit must go to both Redknapp and chairman Daniel Levy.

He has also got the team playing an open, enterprising style of almost-total football; with our wingers regularly switching sides, Adebayor working the channels, van der Vaart, Modric and Parker breaking into the space he vacates and Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Walker bombing forward on the overlap at every opportunity.

The utter unpredictability of our attacks has proved far too much for most opposing sides and the new steel and influence provided by Parker and a returned King have made us difficult to play against for the first time I can remember.

Harry’s switch from 4-4-1-1 to 3-5-2 at half time at Stoke caused a complete u-turn in the tide of the match and we were unlucky not to turn the result the same way, suggesting that there is a touch of tactical nous in the old fox after all. This season, for really the first time, I find myself desperately hoping the he decides that we are a more interesting proposition than England when the FA inevitably come calling this summer.

Star player?

Scotty ‘Man of the Match’ Parker is many fans’ choice for his run of simply-incredible performances through September and October, repelling opposition single-handedly and seemingly at will. Younes Kaboul has looked a man re-born since the Man City catastrophe and seems to be maturing further with every game spent alongside King, while Assou-Ekotto is a largely-unsung hero of enormous magnitude; I challenge you to find me a better left-back than him this season.

But my pick at this stage is Gareth Bale, who has more than answered the critics that suggested he was over-rated and an unworthy winner of the PFA Player of the Year trophy with a string of unstoppable performances this season. He has added several arrows to his quiver in the ability to cause damage from the right-hand side or through the middle, scored important goals with his head as well as his deadly left foot and his assist tally of 5 would stand much higher with a clinical centre-forward like Edin Dzeko or Edinson Cavani to aim his unerringly-pinpoint crosses at. Jonathan Woodgate last week called him the best winger in the world, and that is becoming more and more difficult to dispute.

Who would you like to sell in January?

His inability to complete 90 minutes without a Titus Bramble-esque calamity means that Sebastian Bassong must go, and Giovani dos Santos’ regular impression of a lost ten-year accomplishes nothing other than obscuring the route to the first team for the highly-promising young winger Andros Townsend. My heart tells me that there’s still a great keeper hiding in Heurelho Gomes somewhere, but my head falls into hysterics in response. Long-term injuries have scuppered our chances of offloading David Bentley and Jermaine Jenas for another 6 months but they will be sold as soon as they’re fit. Pavlyuchenko may go, but only if he can be adequately replaced.

The big void is that of a prolific lone striker, and that is what really holds us back from a genuine title challenge. Leandro Damiao has long been linked and seems ideal, but our inability to secure his signature in the summer may have opened the door for other suitors.

Who do you want to sign?

There isn’t too much business to do, but the Stoke game highlighted the concern at centre back if Ledley isn’t fit; Mats Hummels would be ideal but Jan Vertonghen more realistic. Rasmus Elm has recently been mentioned as a possible addition; I’ve seen little of him but he seems to fit the bill of young creative backup to Modric.

The big void is that of a prolific lone striker, and that is what really holds us back from a genuine title challenge. Leandro Damiao has long been linked and seems ideal, but our inability to secure his signature in the summer may have opened the door for other suitors. Carlos Tevez and Fernando Torres have also been linked; unlikely and troubled though they may be, either one fit and on form would make us one hell of a side.

Best chant so far?

“Kaboul, Kaboul, Kaboul is on fire!” is a nice addition to the songsheet, but nothing will ever surpass to feeling you get when a slow and prolonged rendition of “When The Spurs Go Marching In” rings out around the Lane.

Best opposition player/team you’ve seen?

Manchester City, and David Silva, by a country mile. Even though I left in a disconsolate rage when the third goal went in, I’ve never seen Spurs so comprehensively outplayed by anyone at White Hart Lane before. There were mitigating factors for our performance, but take nothing away from theirs; the speed and incisiveness of their play was astonishing and the manner in which Edin Dzeko took his four goals left me sky blue with envy. They would be worthy winners of any league with performances like that.

Biggest **** of the season so far?

Many would pick Chris Foy (or maybe Chris Hoy) for his utter abortion of a performance at Stoke but, infuriating though it was, ultimately it was our first-half performance that left us with too much to do. No, from now until the end of time, this award will always belong to Sulzeer Jeremiah “Judas” Campbell; go f*** yourself, Sol.

End of season prediction?

This will be much easier to answer in five weeks’ time, when the Christmas period has been navigated and the transfer dealings have concluded. In the meanwhile, any Spurs fan is well accustomed to disappointment and unwilling to predict success, but the times they are a’changing and to dare is to do; so I’m going to stick my neck out and predict a third-place finish and the reclamation of our throne as Kings of London. COYS!

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