In his post-match interview Gareth Bale stated ‘confidence is building’. There is little argument from me that you can’t expect a team to snap out of bad form in a single game, at least not in our case when we’ve slumped to three losses on the trot followed by two draws. We’ve hardly been calamitous (bar one game in particular), but we’ve lacked fluidity and direction, usually just trying really hard without any essence of discipline. The court case and the England job have been influential (something I've preferred to avoid accepting) and the fact that up until this blip we had not actually suffered one beforehand (when losing previously, we’d bounce straight back). Trying to exorcise our demons was one of gradual progression, equalising late on against Stoke and then applying congested tactics away to Chelsea before growing in stature to almost nick the game. The Bolton cup game saw the return of our expressiveness and swagger with the players and team looking comfortable and instinctive in movement. And then it all worked itself out in the Swansea game.
As a collective, we’re rejuvenated. One or two in that collective have been pivotal at times this season and are now rediscovering their old form (mojo) just in time for the run in.
When Spurs struggled so did Gareth Bale. I’m a staunch defender of the player. I’m not going to patronise you and suggest that players should not be immune to criticism but at times there is no balance to some of the arguments put forward. Some love to love him when he's playing well but seem quick to shoot him down when he doesn’t, mostly to do with taglines such as ‘believing the hype’ and having an 'ego'. I guess the thinking is he does what he wants on the pitch to the detriment of the team. The reality is that he’s young and level-headed but is also ambitious and wants to be the best in the world. We've got a player who has the potential to be able to believe that without a laughing track accompanying him. If he’s encouraged or instructed to play on the right, swap wings or play centrally then he’s not going to say no to it. Harry Redknapp has to take responsibility here as there is no doubt that roaming/free-role play will make him a better player in the long run but he has to be managed correctly and not simply given the license to play inside every game regardless of opponent.
A confident Bale would still create and be effective centrally but one lacking assurity (from himself and when surrounded by subdued colleagues) is hardly going to set the world on fire no matter the position he takes. Hence why we’ve all been screaming for back to basics. Bale, on he left. One up front. Modric in the middle. Get them doing what they’re good at because at this moment in time the team is more important than any one player. But any one player can excel when he's playing in a team with equally confident team mates.
Bale mixed it up when the opportunity allowed him to against Swansea but the vast majority of his work was down the flank. Now perhaps against sterner opposition (as we’ve witnessed) the power and the glory is not always forthcoming (hence the central experiments). Again, this is down to coaching and making sure Bale is not overly impressionable off the back of the hype. When he's running low on confidence and attempts to run at goal all on his own that's not him pretending to be Ronaldo. That's him over-thinking, over-complicating matters because he's not quite in synch. It's a cheap shot to simply yell 'ego'.
Believing ones hype doesn’t necessarily mean they think they can do as they wish and thus do so with arrogance. There is no disputing his technical skills, physical presence and his pace. He should be attempting new things all the time but he shouldn’t be forgetting what he’s solid at. He should continue to believe in the hype because it's not really hype. It's belief. This is about the desire to be the best. I guess in some ways it is about ego. But he's not parading himself as anything other than Gareth Bale. The beast has to be leashed but there are moments when he has to be unleashed. The owner needs to know exactly when to restrain and when to let go.
The most complete forward in the league? I don’t care about anyone else, he’s the most complete forward at Spurs and that’s all that matters. We’ve been crying out for a player like him. Sure, perhaps the player in our fantasy dream world scores 30 goals per season but the reality is that such players are hard to come by and due to the system we play, we can only have one up top. Which means as important as goals are, being a team player is doubly important.
Sure, he can go missing and have off days. Because of his role (as forward) this is far more apparent but let’s not pretend he’s the only player that suffers from dips. Fact is, he assists. Fact is he allows others to come into offensive positions by virtue of his holding play and movement. If there’s a player out there who will cost the same and score more whilst being able to offer the same link-play as he does then I suggest we sign that player. Otherwise, we make sure we sign the one we’ve got on a permanent contract and concern ourselves more with our second and third strikers (for the long term).
Even Berbatov (one of the finest players we’ve had in recent years) was accused of being lazy. The imperfections are always there but it’s what they offer when they play to their best that matters and how they can still be influential when perhaps a goal is not forthcoming. Ideally, Adebayor should be scoring more. Questions will continue over his (sometimes) lacking first touch and his reluctance to bury the ball first time (didn’t have a problem on Sunday). But if you take a look around the Prem there are few if any potentially available players that could do the job for us, the job he's doing.
Adebayor is a piece that fits into the puzzle. There is nothing to say we can’t get ourselves a better puzzle, but we’ll have to lose a piece first for that to happen.