Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-1 loss to West Ham United last week left them nine points off the top four and ninth in the league after 25 games.
Just as it seemed that Tottenham may have slumped into a bitter depression of no return — one player gave everyone, and the second-half of the West Ham game specifically, a lot of much-needed hope: Gareth Bale.
So, with all the negativity surrounding the club at the moment, let’s go on a positive journey.
His refreshing throwback to his slick but ruthless nature in the final third was a welcome sight on Thursday, and this led most to think he could start the London derby.
A lot of Spurs fans were disappointed but not surprised when, come 11 am, his name was small and tiny, sunk right at the bottom of the line-up announcement photo with the likes of Dele Alli who were also on the bench.
After conceding an easily avoidable opening goal, which is extremely unlike this Spurs side (not), their answer was pretty pathetic and predictable: possession but no penetration. The lack of an attacking plan was, again, alarming.
But, for once, Bale was called upon to change the game at half-time. His task was made almighty when Jesse Lingard put West Ham 2-0 up after two minutes of the restart.
The next 43 minutes was, without doubt, the best we’ve seen the Welshman since his loan in the summer – he was at the centre of everything good Spurs did in their attempt to launch a comeback.
Placed on the right, he would drop into zones between the lines — something Spurs struggled with doing in the first half as West Ham’s shape was very deep, secure and rigid.
Firstly, he put the ball onto his left, teased a deep ball in for Kane but it didn’t quite reach him. Next, he danced into the middle of the park, but his shot was right down the middle for Fabianski.
Full of energy and new-found confidence, he then turned Declan Rice with ridiculous ease and fed in Matt Doherty. His cross was disappointing, but that’s not his fault.
This all within 10 minutes. He was trying to effect the game — and the end product will always come when you are doing good work in these situations.
And so it did. His whipped corner found Lucas Moura’s head which then found the back of the net.
He was a breath of fresh air: the neat touches, beating Ben Johnson with ease on the right-hand side, and that shot in the 78th minute.
After Declan Rice’s brilliant interception, the ball fell back to Kane and he fizzed it to Bale on the edge of the box. Just when everyone sat back down, time stopped.
Out of nowhere, the 31-year-old, on the half-volley, struck the ball with so much power and technique that it genuinely left your mouth wide open.
The crossbar rattled. Bale had his head in his hands — and what an unbelievable moment that should’ve been. But by that point, Bale had changed the entire feel of this game: the first time you can make that statement about the Welshman since his return.
Look, Spurs lost the game, and are now slumped in a horrible position in the league, but Bale’s cameo was very exciting. There is no reason why he shouldn’t start every Premier League game in the near future now.
If Mourinho can now get a tune out of Bale, it could just the adrenalin shot Spurs need right now to get their season back on track.
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