Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Gareth Bale's goal for Tottenham against Sunderland on the final day of last season looks to be the last he will score for the club. Ian Kington / AFP
Gareth Bale's goal for Tottenham against Sunderland on the final day of last season looks to be the last he will score for the club. Ian Kington / AFP

Transfer talk: Gareth Bale out can actually make Tottenham stronger

Over reliant on the Welshman last season, but new additions give English Premier League club more attacking options, writes Jonathan Wilson.

With seconds of the final game of last season remaining, it seemed that Tottenham Hotspur were going to be frustrated by Sunderland, but then Gareth Bale picked the ball up on the right, drifted infield and smashed a brilliant finish past Simon Mignolet.

With Arsenal winning at Newcastle United, it was too late to earn Uefa Champions League qualification for Spurs, but it did seem to encapsulate the season: it was the sixth time Bale had scored a late goal to decide a game.

"If you want to develop the team you have to keep hold of your best assets," the Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas said then, but Bale's move to Real Madrid now seems only a matter of time.

His departure, of course, will be a blow to Tottenham, not merely in terms of ability, but also the prestige he brought. But given that Bale had always spoken of Madrid as a possible destination and the extraordinary size of the fee, the club may come out of it rather well.

There was much griping last season that Tottenham were a one-man team, but that was never the full story. What is significant about those six games Bale turned with late goals is that they all came after Christmas.

In fact, of the 26 goals he scored in all competitions last season, only seven were scored before December 25. In part, that might have been down to his own form, but it was also because Jermain Defoe was injured, Emmanuel Adebayor was out of sorts and no striker had been signed in January, so Tottenham altered their approach to play through Bale.

There was a conscious policy to work the ball to him in scoring areas.

It was broadly successful, but Tottenham will not play in the same way if Bale is not there. Data from whoscored.com shows that in all Premier League games last season, Tottenham attacked down their left 37 per cent of the time; against Crystal Palace on the first weekend of the season, that figure had fallen to 31 per cent, while a staggering 48 per cent went down the right as they tried to use the pace of Aaron Lennon against the struggling full-back Dean Moxey.

Although Spurs were probably frustrated by their struggle to convert possession and domination into goal chances, the plan worked to the extent that it was Moxey who conceded the penalty that gave Spurs the only goal.

Dinamo Tbilisi, beaten 5-0 on Thursday in the Europa League, had no answer to Tottenham's attacking prowess; Swansea City this afternoon will be a far stiffer test.

When Thierry Henry left Arsenal, Cesc Fabregas spoke of feeling a new sense of freedom; he began picking the best pass rather than the pass that would get the ball to the forward.

Bale has never dominated the Spurs dressing-room as Henry did at Arsenal, but Tottenham may see similar benefits, provided that Bale's departure is not the start of a broader player exodus.

In that sense, by making Spurs less predictable, by increasing their options, they may even become stronger through the sale. And in that, the fee of roughly 90 million (Dh514.8m) clearly would help.

Toward the top end of the market, the desire to make a record signing creates inflationary pressure. Realistically, there is no way that Bale, gifted as he might be, is worth the same as Edinson Cavani and Radamel Falcao combined, and yet that is what this summer's business would seem to suggest.

Tottenham would probably rather have done their dealing earlier in the transfer window, but still, they can use the Bale money over the next year to sign three or four genuinely top-class players.

Even if, as now seems likely, they miss out on Willian, gazumped by a Chelsea side who seem to be stockpiling attacking midfielders, they appear to be on the verge of signing the promising Argentine Erik Lamela, 21. Although he may take time to settle, he offers pace and goals cutting in from the flanks.

Given the business Spurs have done already this summer signing Nacer Chadli, Paulinho, Etienne Capoue and Roberto Soldado with Lamela, they would almost certainly be a stronger squad than last season, even without Bale.

The worry, though, is that his ability as a match-winner would have been lost, and with it some of the club's lustre.


twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 The seventh edition of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament was kicking off at Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi on Wednesday with plenty of excitement in store. Ravindranath K / The National

In pictures: IPL 7 kicks off in Abu Dhabi

The first match in the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament, between Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders, was held at Zayed Cricket Stadium amid plenty of colour.

 Al Rayyan's Yakubu Ayegbeni, left, tries to escape the attention of Jazira's Khamis Ismail. Karim Jaafar / AFP Photo

Late strike qualifies Al Jazira for last 16 of Asian Champions League

A dramatic late goal gave Al Jazira a 3-2 victory at Al Rayyan of Qatar in the Asian Champions League (ACL) on Wednesday night and it was just enough to push Walter Zenga’s side into the knockout stages.

 Zayed Cricket Stadium had not witnessed so electrcic an atmosphere before Wednesday evening. Pawan Singh / The National

Packed house gathers in Abu Dhabi for Indian Premier League opener

In less than half a day, Zayed Cricket Stadium witnessed the force that is Indian cricket, with the sound drowning out the controversies that have dogged the Twenty20 tournament, writes Osman Samiuddin.

 Lionel Messi of Barcelona looks down after being defeated during the Copa del Rey Final between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona at Estadio Mestalla on April 16, 2014 in Valencia, Spain. David Ramos/Getty Images

Plenty of life still in Barcelona, says Gerardo Martino

Barcelona coach maintained his side can still return to their former glories after they were beaten 2-1 by a Gareth Bale-inspired Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final.

 Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton, left, and Nico Rosberg at the official press conference following qualifying for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 15, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. Mark Thompson/Getty Images

F1: Toto Wolff says Mercedes have all the right ingredients in place

With Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the wheel, Mercedes have so far dominated the first three grands prix going into this weekend’s fourth round in China.

 Sunderland manager Gus Poyet, left, reacts as Manchester City's manager Manuel Pellegrini looks on during their English Premier League football match at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester on April 16, 2014. The match ended in a 2-2 draw. AFP PHOTO/Andrew YATES

Poyet says ‘I am sure that Luis Suarez is going to be happy’ after Sunderland draw at Manchester City

Sunderland’s survival chances remain slim because now they face Chelsea away at the weekend but manager Gus Poyet insists they are not trying to benefit Liverpool or his fellow Uruguayan, Luis Suarez.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National