Hello all. This won’t take long, just a quick query from last night that I’m sure we can clear up in no time.
Which of last night’s 4 goals would Gareth Bale have prevented?
I ask because a significant section of commentators seem quite certain his absence was a direct cause for yesterday’s pantomime.
Presumably, Bale, whose reputation in recent seasons has been built on his tireless work in defensive areas, would have been covering at the far post for the first goal? (Incidentally my source in Milan tells me Kyle Walker still hasn’t made it back to the penalty area after that 20th minute burst forward. He’s presently about 30 yards from our goal and at current speed should be back in London around mid-July. Which, let’s be honest, would still be sooner than ideal.)
I suppose the concession of the 2nd goal, the complimentary ‘ball-over-the-top-and-finish’ gift we give away free with every selection of Brad Friedel, is the price you pay for not having someone on the pitch who is really, really good at scoring directly from free kicks.
Speaking of free-kicks, it’s easy to see how the equalizer could have been averted by the presence of a speedy left-footed attacker. And who among us didn’t bemoan Bale’s absence when Álvarez headed home Cassano’s cross? How many times has he got us off the hook this season by marking opposition centre-forwards out of the game?
Ok, ok, enough glib ‘hilarity’. Let’s allow reason to have its moment. After all, dismissing his absence is as logically flawed as focusing on it solely. The team actually passed the ball well at times and having him as a focal point could easily have made us more incisive. His selection causes defences to shift their emphasis towards him which makes space for others and his ability to produce individual brilliance out of nothing means even poor performances can be redeemed. It also shouldn’t be forgotten that Bale is of a stature now where his presence affects the mentality of both his team mates and his opponents.
But four goals?
This isn’t about trying to be positive. The notion that, whether he’s on the pitch or not, we remain vulnerable to the kind of clown-troupe-trying-to-put out-a-fire defending we saw last night doesn’t provide comfort. Neither does the idea that, as discussed in this very blog, there are still some deep-seated demons in the Spurs psyche which leave us vulnerable to alarming collapses. Collapses which will have a far bigger influence on whether or not the club is successful in the long-term than Gareth Bale. Let’s not forget he was present throughout our implosion at Anfield on Sunday.
What we need to be able to do is value him and draw confidence from having him without allowing the team to become secondary to him. The powerful thing about hype is that even if you acknowledge it, it still doesn’t lose its power to intoxicate. We’ve all become so conditioned to associate Spurs with him that we now view every result through the prism of Bale’s influence. Victories are achieved entirely because of him, defeats explained conclusively by his absence. It’s dangerous. The players need to believe they can win without him. If they don’t, he only needs to pick up an injury for our season to be over. The dangers are even more of a concern in the longer-term. On current trajectory he isn’t going to be at the club for more than another year or two, and that’s being optimistic, so if the club is to continue to make progress we need to believe that it can be sustained after he’s gone.
Perhaps most pertinently, we can’t allow his absence, or his presence for that matter, to overshadow other deficiencies. The manager got this team selection wrong, we defended poorly and we pressed poorly. Those were the direct causes of last night’s shambles.
But we still got through.
Thanks to a goal from Gareth Bale’s replacement.