x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Bolton bring Gareth Bale back down to earth

Paul Radley looks at the best and worst elements to this weekend's Premier League action, including the deflation of Tottenham Hotspur.

Gareth Bale, the versatile left-sided Tottenham player, seems ill at ease with the attention created by his memorable performance against Inter Milan last Tuesday.
Gareth Bale, the versatile left-sided Tottenham player, seems ill at ease with the attention created by his memorable performance against Inter Milan last Tuesday.

Best value: Coleman

Times have changed since the days when clubs traded players with goodwill gestures rather than money. As recently as 1982, Gillingham snapped up a young Tony Cascarino after offering his non-league side a set of tracksuits and some corrugated iron.

However, Everton still know where to find the best deals in the bargain basement. One day at the end of 2008, when scouring the aisles of Poundland, David Moyes, the Everton manager, happened upon a young Irish full-back called Seamus Coleman.

He eventually parted with £60,000 (Dh360,000) to bring him to Goodison Park. Or the equivalent of around two days' wages for Wayne Rooney, a former Everton player.

After Coleman smuggled in a shot in the draw against Blackpool on Saturday, he has now scored as many Premier League goals so far this season as the Manchester United striker. Moyes could afford to buy approximately 130 Seamus Colemans for what it costs United to pay Rooney's new annual salary. All of which could explain United's recent transfer policy.


Best point: Rooney

Wayne Rooney and his well-remunerated Man Friday, Paul Stretford, certainly went the wrong way about it. But for all the ugly avarice their motives were cloaked in, they might have had a point when questioning United's current pulling power.

Ji-sung Park's late winner against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday hid a multitude of sins at Old Trafford. They had been comfortably outplayed for the majority of the game by a Wolves side struggling at the wrong end of the table.

This was not the same as the days when United played badly, but still won when one of their galaxy of stars popped up at the right time. The star-dust has mostly blown away.

The likes of Gabriel Obertan and Bebe may end up being decent enough players, but are they the stuff on which Sir Alex Ferguson's dynasty was built on? When Bebe, the Portuguese wild card, sent one cross out for a throw-in on the other side of the pitch - without bouncing - the nadir had been reached.


Biggest deflation: Tottenham

What about the night Tottenham Hotspur stuffed the European champions in front of a packed house in the continent's biggest competition? Those were the days, my friend, we thought they would never end.

Euphoria does not last long in sport, just ask Spurs fans. The eulogies to Gareth Bale, the tormentor of Inter Milan, were still at full pitch by the time his side realised they were 3-0 down to a team of journeymen, in front of swathes of empty seats at Bolton Wanderers on Saturday. It seems clear that Bale, who went to visit his mum in Cardiff when his manager gave him time off to go abroad the week before, is hardly at ease with all the attention.

If it brings with it the type of treatment he got at the Reebok Stadium, then it is no surprise he wants to keep a low profile.

Maicon, Inter's vaunted full-back, may have struggled to stop him, but Gretar Steinsson, Bolton's workaday defender, hit on a fail-safe method. Kick him. Welcome back to the Premier League, Gareth.


Worst attitude: Balotelli

Mario Balotelli has the world at his feet - a job at one of the league's top clubs, money, fame, precocious talent. He also has a rather large chip on his shoulder.

Yesterday was going swimmingly for Manchester City's young Italian striker as he put his side 2-0 up at West Bromwich Albion.

But the 19-year-old has the strangest way of celebrating his goals. It involves glaring menacingly at his teammates as if he has just received some very bad news.

Balotelli, had numerous fall outs with Jose Mourinho, his manager at Inter Milan last season. The main gripe was his temperament.

So perhaps it should have come as no surprise that the man who permanently looks like he is going to blow his top eventually did. A petulant kick at West Bromwich Albion's Youssuf Mulumbu saw Balotelli red carded and facing a ban.


Best tactic: Newcastle

Every goal Arsenal score has to be a mini-masterpiece. Each pass they stroke is a Rembrandt in the making. Pity for them, then, that there is no room for pictures on the scoreboard. Newcastle United made some appealing patterns of their own on their visit to the Emirates Stadium yesterday. They also hit on a perfectly sound method for finding the net: sling it into the mixer.

For all the neat play, the decisive act was distinctly route one: a high ball into the area. It is the sort of play for which Andy Carroll, Newcastle's strapping centre-forward, is ideally constructed, as he leapt to head past Lukasz Fabianski in the Arsenal goal.