There was, of course, one threat I failed to identify yesterday. Even injury-hit Tottenham – and I wouldn’t believe Harry’s claim that he’s only got 12 fit players – possess a shedload of quality and danger could come from all angles.
Gareth Bale’s had something of a stop-start Premier League career. Highly rated by everyone who clapped eyes on this awesome talent at Southampton, the Welsh teenager struggled to make the instant impact the pundits expected when he made the big-money move to London. Hardly surprising given his tender age, really. A common complaint early in his time at White Hart Lane was that the young protege was a little too naive defensively and he struggled to win a place on the left side of midfield given the other options at the various Tottenham coaches’ disposal.
We all know about his Premier League curse but, even during that barren run, there were glimpses of what the kid could do. One of them came at Craven Cottage in September 2007. He ran riot down the Tottenham left, scoring a delicious third goal that looked to have settled the contest.
Spurs might have been rocked by an absurdly acrobatic Diomansy Kamara equaliser that day but Bale’s ability wasn’t in question.
He’s slowly established himself as a regular in the Spurs team under Redknapp and provides the sort of extra attacking outlet managers love from a full back. This was evident on another fruitless trip to the Lane for Fulham back in January, when Bale finally got that lack of a league win when he started off his back. He was outstanding, carrying the ball deep into Fulham territory and delivering dangerous cross after dangerous cross. Granted we didn’t give him too much defending to do, but the boy was irresistable.
It seems as though Bale has shaken off the knock that forced him off early for Wales in midweek, so Fulham will have to curb his attacking instincts. That will be easier said than done. Much of the responsibility for monitoring Tottenham’s maurauding left back will likely full on the shoulders of a revitalised Damien Duff. The Republic of Ireland winger will have plenty of practice at tracking back and disciplined defending in Donetsk recently, though that’s not to say such a heavy work ethic isn’t always demanded of him by Roy Hodgson.
Like Tottenham’s key midfielders, the solution would be to try and give Bale something to think about himself. Duff’s willing to take on a full back and will need to occupy Bale in his own defensive third. A performance like the one he delivered against Birmingham – complete with another long-range goal – would be very handy indeed.