The genius of Mr Bale

Graeme Bailey wonders just how much better Gareth Bale can get after he inspired another Spurs win.

Last Updated: 09/02/13 at 16:34

In what always looked a tight contest at White Hart Lane, Gareth Bale was truly the difference between Tottenham and Newcastle.

The win took Tottenham, briefly, into third - but they extended the gap over fifth place as their charge for a UEFA Champions League place continued at a pace.

Newcastle remain just six points ahead of trouble and are still in a dogfight at the bottom, but they surely have too much with their new signings to be dragged into the bottom three.

But this game, like so many before and no doubt numerous more after, was about Mr Bale.

Selection

Emmanuel Adebayor defied some morning reports that his was AWOL after the Africa Cup of Nations as he took his place on the bench. That meant Clint Dempsey was given the chance to start up front with Bale on the left and Aaron Lennon right. Lewis Holtby was given his first start in the middle.

Newcastle stuck with the same XI that beat Chelsea last weekend, which meant James Perch starting ahead of both Vurnon Anita and Chieck Tiote, who was also back from ACN duty.

Tactics

Spurs began with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Parker and Dembele in midfield, with Holtby pushed on behind and Bale and Lennon out wide as Dempsey led the line. This was changed in the second period with Bale given the freedom he has been enjoying of late and the decision was a good one as the Welshman found the room for his second, which he might not have got out wide.

Newcastle began in a very similar shape to Spurs. Gouffran and Sissoko caused problems breaking from midfield. Gouffran's second-half injury proved an issue as they seemed to lose their attacking shape.

Substitutions

Andre Villas-Boas changed things early in the second half with Holtby coming off for Adebayor - this allowed Dempsey to drop and Bale was given the free role. It worked and Spurs were more fluent with their key man everywhere. Dembele was forced off late on after a nasty challenge from Cabaye, whilst Assou-Ekotto also replaced Naughton, after the latter was again preferred in the starting line-up.

Newcastle were forced to replace the impressive Gouffran early in the second half and that did little for their chances. Tiote replaced Perch late on whilst Shola Ameobi came on to push for a leveller in the closing stages.

Referee

Phil Dowd did OK - but he did appear to get one thing wrong and that was Cabaye's late challenge on Moussa Dembele. The nasty challenge earned him a yellow, but looking at the replay, he was lucky not to see red. That aside, he policed it quite well.

Main men

No disrespect to those on show - but there is only one main man to talk about in this game, the rest are also-rans. The genius of Bale was there for everyone to see. The best player in the Premier League at the moment, of that there is little doubt. His first goal was a Ronaldo-esque, top of the foot free-kick which meant it never went higher than the bar and flashed into the net leaving Krul little chance. And once he got his free role he was a constant menace and it was little surprise he bagged the winner - indeed it was more shocking he did not add to his and Tottenham's tally. Bale aside, Spurs ticked over nicely with Dembele, Holtby, Parker, Dempsey and Lennon all more than capable cast members behind their leading man.

Newcastle look so much better with Steven Taylor - the heartbeat of their club - at the centre of their defence. His partnership with Coloccini was only undone by the genius of Bale. Moussa Sissoko and Gouffran both continued to impress in attacking midfield roles following their recent arrivals. But Newcastle's key man is Cabaye and he is starting to tick like he did last year. His tackle on Dembele late on was naughty.

Looking ahead

Tottenham look good, even without leading front-man Jermain Defoe they look impressive. Indeed, with just two or three more names, they don't look a million miles away from making a concerted challenge on either Manchester side. But keeping Bale is the key. Keeping him fit until the summer, and then keeping him out of the hands of every big club in Europe before next season.

It is true that the table doesn't lie, but the team Newcastle have now is not the one which dragged them into the relegation mire. With Hatem Ben Arfa also due back, they have far too much for everyone else at the bottom end and surely a mid-table finish beckons.

Related News

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

H

ang on there!! We've only just won the second in a row. Don't we have to win three, like Brazil, to get to keep the Cup permanently at our stadium? ;-)

gutbukkit
Emirates to sponsor FA Cup

T

ypical Bodgers, in desperate need of a defensive midfielder and go for a floaty number 10 type midfielder. BODGERS OUT.

uncle monty
The Home Gossip

B

enteke is an absolute steal for £32.5m, he would get into any team in the world (except Barcelona) at the moment. I've seen many very good strikers in my 30+ years as a Villa fan. This guy is the best without question.

sparkigol
Benteke's £32.5m release clause

Footer 365

PSG win French Cup to seal the domestic quadruple

Paris Saint-Germain achieved a unique domestic quadruple when they beat Ligue 2 side AJ Auxerre 1-0 in the French Cup final.

Athletic Bilbao 1-3 Barcelona: Lionel Messi double hands Barca Copa del Rey triumph

Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona moved a step closer to the treble with a 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final.

Theo Walcott says Arsenal's squad is strong enough to mount a Premier League title bid next term

Theo Walcott thinks the current Arsenal squad is the strongest he has been involved with.

Mail Box

Players Must Stand Up For Qatar Boycott

Players, not bureaucrats, hold the key to boycotting Qatar. Also in the afternoon mailbox: Wenger is right to rotate, Zlatan can dribble, and it's Barca v Ajax in the budget final...

What Would You Do If You Were Blatter?

Step into Sepp's shoes, is the invitation from one mailboxer. Also: United already have their new number one, Rodgers deserves time, and the best Budget XI so far...

© 2015 Sky Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media company