Saturday, February 9, 2013
Bale in a class of his own
Kevin Palmer, White Hart Lane
If there was a debate over who deserves to be hailed as the best player in the Premier League, it was duly settled by Gareth Bale after this latest wonder show at White Hart Lane.
There will be those who suggest Manchester United's Robin van Persie has claims to a title that will rarely be bestowed unanimously, but when you witness a performance as majestic and sublime as Bale produced to beat Newcastle - almost single-handedly - it seems inconceivable that a more complete footballer is currently playing in England's elite league.
As Bale added two more superb goals to his collection and guided his team into pole position in the race for a top-four finish, the superlatives required to pay tribute to his brilliance were a little thin on the ground. When someone is this good, finding words to do justice to his performance is not easy, yet this is the script Bale scrawls, time and time again.
• Duffy: Gareth Bale 2, Le Toon 1
• Fitch: World-class Bale saves the day again
Oozing with pace, power, clinical finishing and boasting a fear factor that puts him in a class of his own in the Premier League, this was another example of the 23-year-old Welshman coming to the boil in thrilling fashion. Newcastle could be forgiven for having no answer to his genius.
From his magnificent fifth-minute free-kick that opened the scoring to his 78th-minute winner that was never in doubt from the moment he raced clear of the Newcastle defence, Bale carried a Tottenham team desperately lacking a natural striker to a victory they would not have achieved without their one-man orchestra.
Relying on a solitary player to win you games is hardly a reliable route to long-term success, but when the player in question is playing at the level Bale has risen to, it is natural that Tottenham are relying on him to haul them to glory time and time again.
While head coach Andre Villas-Boas did his best to claim his team were much more than just the Gareth Bale show, he was overwhelmed with questions surrounding his star turn, whose price tag and attractiveness to the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona will have inflated after this latest wonder show.
"We are fortunate to have a player of such a dimension who is helping us to win games," the Spurs boss said. "Gareth is enjoying his football through the middle and he seems to enjoy it more than playing on the left flank, but we know he can play anywhere. There are always going to be questions about whether Tottenham can keep hold of him, but I have answered this many times. He is happy here, he is enjoying his football and we have no need to sell him.
"What I don't want is for this just to be just about Gareth because we win as a team. It was an important victory for us because it puts other teams under pressure and when you consider Newcastle's form, it shows what a great, great win this is for us."
Villas-Boas can thank his lucky stars that Bale is producing miracles for him because, without the intervention of his match-winner, the question marks over Tottenham's top-four credentials would have been the primary story emerging from this game.
Against a side that invested heavily in the January transfer market, the lack of spending completed by Spurs looked set to be highlighted as Bale's early goal was cancelled out by Newcastle new boy Yoan Gouffran after 24 minutes and, while the visitors rarely threatened to take a lead, they seemed to be containing Spurs with comfort as the game headed into its final chapter.
You could only feel sympathy with Villas-Boas as he was forced to play midfielder Clint Dempsey as his lead striker once again and, while the American's energy levels can never be questioned, he cannot and will not ever master the art of leading the line on his own.
The question marks over why Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy did not sanction a move for an additional striker last month would have been raised with increasing frustration if Bale had not won this game in his own unique manner, yet that debate can now be put on hold until a later date for now.
As it stands, Spurs may well get away with their transfer market prudence as they have a footballer who is a little too good for the rest of the Premier League to handle right now, as Newcastle boss Alan Pardew was happy to concede as much.
"Bale is difficult to contain," Pardew said. "We tied him down in certain areas, but his first goal was a great hit and you have to hold your hands up and say the guy is a class act. We are not the first team to have problems with him and we won't be the last, I can assure you.
"The positive from this game is the overall performance of my team and the power we showed for long periods of the game. We felt comfortable until a small mistake handed them the chance to get the second goal. I have no doubt that we will be fine this season with the team we now have."
If Real Madrid and Barcelona were interested in Bale before his recent displays, their eagerness to pay the £50 million it may cost to sign him up will have intensified in recent weeks, yet such an outcome would not only be devastating for Tottenham as the Premier League brand is now also at stake.
While Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo deserve to be recognised as the two best players in the world right now, Bale is not be far behind them in the elite list and if he does join them in Spain next summer, England's top flight will lose the jewel in its crown.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Gareth Bale. The superlatives are running out to illustrate the brilliance of a player who is carrying Tottenham's season on his own. The Welshman is winning Premier League games week after week.
ADE BYE BYE: The word in emerging from the Tottenham camp is that Emmanuel Adebayor's late return from the African Nations Cup has infuriated all concerned. Spurs didn't even expect their Togo striker to continue his international career when he signed last summer, so this latest incident has heightened speculation that he may be offloaded sooner rather than later.
TOTTENHAM VERDICT: A one-man team maybe, but what a man. Robin van Persie's brilliance guided Arsenal into the Champions League last season and Bale is threatening to do the same for Spurs this term.
NEWCASTLE VERDICT: This was another promising display from Pardew's revamped side and his suggestion that they could finish in the top half of the Premier League this season is not misplaced.