How Gareth Bale became Spurs' free-kick supremo

Posted by Dan Fitch

Gareth Bale might be making his colleagues' jobs easier, but he certainly isn't making mine any simpler.

- Bale: I can get even better
- Brassell: Bale brilliance lights up White Hart Lane

As ESPN's Spurs blogger, I'm expected to mix things up a little, varying the topics as much as I can to keep things fresh. Yet how am I meant to do that when there is only one talking point after every single game?

The only thing that anyone would want to or could talk about after Tottenham's 2-1 win over Lyon in the Europa League was how amazing Gareth Bale is.

Once again he rescued a result for Tottenham single-handedly. Once again, the goals he scored were spectacular.

Bale has now scored 17 goals in all competitions for Spurs this season. That's not bad for a midfielder, considering that it's still only February.

Six of those goals have come in the last four games, all played within the last 16 days. We are witnessing a player who has hit the form of his life, and he's absolutely unstoppable right now.

What a shame that Tottenham don't have a game this FA Cup weekend, because who would back against Bale continuing his scoring streak?

Instead he gets to put those magic feet up and take a rest, before facing the away leg against Lyon, in what is now a finely balanced tie.

Spurs have not been at their best in the Europa League this season and have tended to scrape results. Thursday night continued this trend, as Tottenham snatched a last-gasp win that they did not really deserve.

That win came courtesy of two brilliant free kicks from Bale, which came on either side of a stunning equaliser from Lyon's Samuel Umtiti. Who says the Europa League is the Champions League's poor relation, when it can serve up goals like these?

It marked Bale's third goal from a free kick in his last two games, following his opening goal against Newcastle.

If Bale is going to add this sort of set-piece accuracy to his game on a regular basis, it's going to make him even more dangerous. You can man-mark a player, but a free kick is the one time when an opponent has to give him space.

I'm pleased to see Bale excelling in this area, because free kicks have been a weakness for him since he's been at Spurs.

When Tottenham signed him, it was on the back of a number of impressive appearances for Southampton, in which he regularly scored direct from set pieces.

Bale came to Spurs and scored a very early and welcome free kick against Arsenal, but if Tottenham fans thought this was to be a regular occurrence, they were wrong.

It might be my memory failing me, but I can't remember Bale scoring from a free kick between that first strike against Arsenal in 2008 and the one against Newcastle at the weekend. Now he's got three in a week. So what's changed?

It could be as simple a thing as confidence, added to his newfound seniority at the club. While Rafael van der Vaart was at Spurs, very few people got a look in when it came to free kicks around the area.

The Dutchman was the older and more celebrated player. It would take a lot of nerve for a youngster like Bale to push him out of the way and insist on taking them himself. The fact that VDV never once scored from a free kick never seemed to diminish his confidence.

Now Bale is the number one player at Tottenham and if he wants to take a free kick, he will do. The way they're flying in at the moment suggests he'll take all of them, which is good news considering that Younes 'smacks it straight into the wall every time' Kaboul is ready to make his return from injury.

It's taken a long time, but Bale is finally the free-kick supremo at Spurs, and that makes both him and the team an even more dangerous proposition.

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