David Bentley: Why The Arsenal Reject Can Be Tottenham's Secret Weapon
After a long day, I settled down to watch Tottenham Hotspur take on New York Red Bulls in the final game of their pre-season tour of America last week. A Luka Modric-less Spurs had been based in America for 10 days and the trip hadn’t been anything short of controversial, with much being made of Gareth Bale’s participation during the 1-1 draw with LA Galaxy last month.
The Welshman had been expected to be a cornerstone of Stuart Pearce’s Team GB squad this summer, but injury forced him out of the summer competition. However, after netting in the stalemate against the MLS side, many believed Spurs had faked the wideman's injury in order for him to take part in pre-season.
The furore began to bubble over during the 0-0 draw with Liverpool, when Charlie Adam, who had previously injured Bale, appeared to kick out at the 23-year-old, with reports suggesting he would be ruled out for around six weeks. However, he made a triumphant return to the starting XI during the 2-1 over the Red Bulls early on Wednesday morning.
Bale netted the opener in the encounter with summer arrival Gylfi Sigurdsson completing the fight-back with a superb individual effort. However, one man in particular stood out for many Spurs fans; David Bentley. Now, I don’t know whether it was the uncontrollable tiredness that had washed over me, despite two energy drinks and a very strong coffee during the day, that had my mind playing tricks on me, but I felt compelled to echo the sentiments on the Spurs man.
His arrival began in perfect fashion as Bentley netted in the 5-1 pre-season win over AS Roma ahead of the 2008/09 season.
It’s fair to assume that Bentley’s Tottenham career never followed the path many had expected. A big money switch from Blackburn Rovers in 2008 saw David Beckham MK: II secure his dream move to White Hart Lane, with the winger jumping for joy like a giddy little schoolgirl, proclaiming ‘come on you Spurs’ when quizzed on the move.
His arrival began in perfect fashion as Bentley netted in the 5-1 pre-season win over AS Roma ahead of the 2008/09 season. The result, however, proved to be a false dawn for both club and player. Spurs suffered the worst Premier League start in their history, while the then 23-year-old failed to adjust his game to match that of the requirements of Harry Redknapp. That goal against Arsenal aside, of course.
An injury to Aaron Lennon gave him his chance to shine once again, but it wasn’t enough as Bentley was cast away from the starting XI and, eventually, first-team duties altogether. In 2011, he linked up with Birmingham City on-loan for the remainder of the campaign and appeared to regain the form he showed while at Ewood Park.
Again, it wasn’t enough for Redknapp and he was shipped out on loan for the 2011/12 season, this time to West Ham United. It came to a premature end as Bentley suffered a knee injury, forcing him to return to White Hart Lane. Fans believed it was the beginning of the end for the England man, with many expecting him to be sold over the summer.
However, the departure of Redknapp has given Bentley renewed hope of succeeding with the North London side. Successor Andre Villas-Boas has confirmed that all fringe players will be given a second chance to prove their worth, much to the delight of Giovani Dos Santos, Heurelho Gomes, Sebastien Bassong and ex-Arsenal man Bentley.
In 2011, he linked up with Birmingham City on-loan for the remainder of the campaign and appeared to regain the form he showed while at Ewood Park.
This takes us up to the Red Bulls game. Bentley started on the left of a front-three, where Villas-Boas experimented with a 4-6-0 formation; Bale in the false nine role. Nevertheless, the winger’s movement and creative spark proved to be a bright spot for Spurs in a dreary first half, which saw them go 1-0 down courtesy of a Kenny Cooper penalty.
Nevertheless, Bentley’s link-up play with Benoit Assou-Ekotto was good, with the former cutting in for the latter to overlap. Perhaps unlucky not to have been playing with an out-and-out striker like Harry Kane, who played the full 90 minutes in the energy sapping stalemate with Liverpool over the weekend, the winger gave glimpses of his productive past, which went down well with the Spurs faithful.
Many felt that a 15 minute cameo in the second half was warranted, nevertheless, Bentley was withdrawn at half-time to accommodate Kane. However, Villas-Boas would have been impressed with what he saw against Red Bulls from Bentley, who could have a big part to play in the upcoming season.
Despite competition from Sigurdsson and Rafael van der Vaart, the 27-year-old has the potential to make the spot behind the striker his own, provided he gets his head down and works hard to establish himself in as a regular first-teamer. With the new head coach looking to bring in a 4-2-3-1 formation, that spot behind the front-man could be Bentley’s to lose. With two-years still to run on the former Arsenal trainee’s contract, it isn’t necessarily his last chance to prove his worth. However, now is as better time as ever to finally begin his Spurs career, four years after his big money arrival.
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