‘Brilliant Bale sends Spurs soaring’ was one headline this morning. As well as the fact that we finished the weekend in the same spot as we started, hardly ‘soaring’, is there something else wrong with this headline? Is Bale brilliant?
His two perfectly executed left foot thumps yesterday argue a good case for ‘are you joking? Of course he is’. In the first half especially there was acres of space down his side as Barton, presumably weighed down by his outsized ego, failed to assist old boy Luke Young against the marauding Welshman and Assou-Ekotto – who can rarely have spent more time in the opposition half than he did in this game. Gareth could’ve had four. One close range thunderbolt cleared the bar and Kenny beat away another.
Last weekend though the Thunder Monkey as the Thai Spurs apparently refer to him, succumbed to the malaise that hit each of our midfielders (Parker excepted) at Ewood as we struggled to take full control of the game and at St James’s Park the previous Sunday he was anonymous. Admittedly the switching between wings doesn’t help him but he’s going to play on the right again surely as he’s a better option than Van der Vaart or Modric there when Lennon’s out so he needs to get used to it.
So is he just a flat track bully? Does he save his best for the lower Premiership sides that don’t have the resources or quality to double-team him and deny him space? This certainly never used to be the case. When he first took the Premier League by storm in January 2010 his power, pace and directness was too much for any team. He scored against the gooners in the Danny Rose game and Chelski the weekend after when the hapless John Terry saw red after hacking him down. But these days he’s often shackled when we need him most. Just the opposition putting an extra man down that side is often enough to contain him.
So is he brilliant? ‘Sometimes’ is the answer. His game has changed in the past year or so; he’s less likely to be poised on the touchline ready to go straight for the jugular and more likely to appear infield getting involved in giving Parker and Modric outlets and when so many teams play the extra man in the middle that’s useful, though the sight of him with the ball at his feet heading straight at the full back is one of the highlights of the current game.
At 22 he’s obviously got time on his side to learn about how to make the use of his talents but I think it’s fair to say, and it’s good news for us obviously, that there’s more to come and in the future we’re liable to experience less of the disappearances of a fortnight ago and more of the game-winning form of yesterday.
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