x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Premier League best and worst: Gareth Bale can't put a foot wrong

Tottenham's Gareth Bale being compared with Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo as Roberto Mancini lets rip at Manchester City players, writes Thomas Woods.

Tottenham's Gareth Bale, who has drawn comparisons to the world's best, scored both goals for his team in a 2-1 win over Newcastle United on Saturday. Kerim Okten / EPA
Tottenham's Gareth Bale, who has drawn comparisons to the world's best, scored both goals for his team in a 2-1 win over Newcastle United on Saturday. Kerim Okten / EPA

Best comparison – Bale

Gareth Bale produced another dazzling display for Tottenham Hotspur, with his two goals leading his team to a 2-1 victory over Newcastle United, prompting manager Andre Villas-Boas to eulogise about the Welsh winger's quality.

Villas-Boas said it would be a "disaster" if Spurs lost Bale. Not quite true, earthquakes and tsunamis are disasters, Spurs without Bale would just make them a poorer football team.

But the Tottenham manager got one thing right, in comparing his star man with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. It's hard to analyse Bale against the world's two best players, but his stock is rising, and there are few players in the Premier League, and even world football, who can turn a game the way he can.

The fear for Spurs fans is that it will not be long until comparisons with Ronaldo and Messi are legitimate – because Bale is playing alongside one of them for Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Best let off – Benitez

Rafa Benitez was rumoured to be facing the famous Roman Abramovich chop if his Chelsea side lost to Wigan Athletic.

And Chelsea fans, given their reaction to his appointment only two and a half months ago, would probably have been happy with him to go. But one emphatic 4-1 victory at home to Wigan Athletic later and the Spaniard is still in a job.

The irony of football is that, as up and down as Chelsea's season has been, their next league game is away at Manchester City.

Win at Etihad Stadium, and the European champions will only be a point away from second place in the table.

Worst pep talk – Mancini

Manchester City's defeat at Southampton was a major setback to their title ambitions, leading to them dropping 12 points behind leaders Manchester United.

You might expect their manager to try to deflect some attention from a poor performance, blame the referee, or the pitch. Something to lift his players' morale. Not Roberto Mancini. He let rip with venom at his team.

"It was worse than poor," said the Italian. "We didn't play, it was 11 against two so it's difficult. I think this is the worst game in the last two or three years. The players played really bad - without strength, without personality. We conceded a goal that I have never seen in my life.

"I was really disappointed with my players. When we perform like today, I'm very angry."

Let's hope his squad have thick skins, or the title race may be completely over.

Worst run – Norwich City

There is always one team who begin the season like a house on fire, then suddenly hit the wall. Look at Hull City in 2008/09.

They were joint top with Chelsea and Liverpool after nine games, but won just twice again that season and avoided relegation on the final day.

This season's Hull could well be Norwich City. Chris Hughton's side were seventh at the start of December, having beaten Arsenal and Manchester United at home. They now haven't won in nine matches, have scored once in five league games, including Saturday's dismal 0-0 draw at home to Fulham.

They better hope they aren't facing relegation on the final day – their last match of the season is away at Manchester City.

Best own goal – Westwood

No not the worst own goal, that belonged to Gareth Barry in Manchester City's aforementioned defeat at Southampton when he passed the ball into his own net. This peach from Ashley Westwood would have been an absolute cracker, if it had been at the right end.

The Aston Villa defender got his head in the way of a West Ham shot and the ball looped into the top corner from 20 yards out.


And, unlike Barry's strike, this didn't matter as much for Westwood, despite dented pride, as his team ran out 2-1 winners.


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