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

I

m not sure about this distance covered malarky, plus that stat comes with *since February attached to it, that's just 1 month. I mean I have 27 open cases I'm 'working on' at the moment but believe me others with 10 cases work harder than I do. I just got back from a pub lunch, scampi and chips (+4 pints) in case you were wondering.

hurler
Wenger defends Ozil

C

isse should have appealed and explained that it was just a retaliation, just like Matic did. Apparently the FA are ok with retaliation.

Triangler
Cisse accepts FA charge

L

ove this guy. He's one of the few surviving players that I remember so vividly from Football Italia and Gazetta on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons.

HarryBoulton
Francesco Totti - The King Of Rome

Footer 365

Ryan Giggs enjoys working with Louis van Gaal; plays down rift reports

Manchester United assistant manager Ryan Giggs has played down talk of a rift with Louis van Gaal and hailed their "great working relationship".

Mesut Ozil defended by Arsene Wenger after Paul Scholes criticism

Arsene Wenger claims Paul Scholes "would have loved to play with Mesut Ozil".

Football Association names Martin Glenn as its new chief executive

The Football Association has named Martin Glenn as its new chief executive.

Mail Box

Why All The Hate For Robin Van Persie?

One Mailboxer can't work out why everyone is having a pop at Robin van Persie. Plus FA Cup anticipation, changing relegation, a Friday song and more Totti love...

Is Sissoko's Neck Very Distinctive?

Moussa Sissoko features in a really quite bizarre Distinctive Physical Features XI while we have mails on sexism, Angel Di Maria and Francesco Totti. Ramdom.

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