The Lead

I’ve been a bit critical of Jonathan Wilson’s tactical hermeneutics of late, but today’s piece on Gareth Bale makes some good arguments against the notion that Tottenham Hotspur are a one-man team. Wilson writes:

Take the last-minute winner against West Ham. Bale began a charge and was bundled off the ball as he laid it outside to Gylfi Sigurdsson who had moved left as Bale surged through the centre. Sigurdsson knocked a pass inside to Tom Carroll by which time Bale had got back to his feet and Sigurdsson had made a run that created a fraction of space. It took an extraordinary strike to score but the key thing was that Bale had two players within 10-15 yards of him, as well as Adebayor pulling away to the right. You do not have to share the late Valeriy Lobanovskyi’s conviction that the coalitions between players are more important than the players themselves to appreciate that others contributed before the majestic execution.

And here is one of those magical moments in which the analysis is borne out by the underlying statistics. As I argued earlier this month, in terms of the control of play, Spurs look about as good a side without Bale as they are with him.

This isn’t some crazy voodoo either, but as Wilson argues, common sense. Football is all about interplay; the notion that in the modern Premier League in which space is almost all tactically accounted for a single player could overcome some major deficiencies within their side and lift them to where Spurs are in the table is ridiculous.

It would also behoove those who want to start talking about a “run of form” too to remind themselves of the Hot Hand fallacy.


Benitez openly criticizes his team’s performance.

Wenger worried about Arsenal’s morale.

“He inspires people and he is a direct influence on every single player.” – Villas-Boas on Gareth Bale.

Nathan Dyer insists Swansea will manage without Laudrup.


Inter hit with fine after fans racially abuse Balotelli.

Ultras in Genoa to face jail time.

La Liga

Real Betis interested in extending Campbell’s loan.

Afellay will return to Barcelona at the end of the season.


Lewandowski’s agent says the Polish striker has already made up his mind over future.

“I am convinced Borussia will make it into the final.” – Edin Dzeko discusses his future and rumours linking him to Dortmund.

Bit and Bobs

Mourinho in the running to coach Ballack’s friendly in the summer, team to include arch rival Messi.

McClaren leaves Dutch side FC Twente.

“I didn’t kill anyone. I’m here to seek justice.” – Diego Maradona

Thanks to Alima Hotakie for compiling today’s links.

Comments (14)

  1. I wonder if Villas-Boas would turn down the Real job if offered after Jose leaves and Spurs qualify for the CL and have a chance in hell of keeping Bale. I’d be very curious.

  2. Holy shit. Wow. Jesus. What a game. Didn’t think we would come back to win it when we were down a goal with about 10 minutes left. Was hoping for an equalizer to at least get a point. Holy shit.

    I have no idea if Spurs/Bale can keep this up, but man I am enjoying the ride. There are a few massive tests coming up, but in this form, and with this self-belief, I think anything is possible. And I can’t think of a better time to face the Arse. If ever there was the chance for Bale to have a season-determining impact, it is this weekend. A win would put us 7 pts clear of 5th place. Geeze.

    Oh, and I love that Bale sprinted to AVB to celebrate. That shows you the kind of spirit he is building in this squad. If ever there was a person who could steer us back into the CL and have any hope of retaining Bale, it seems like AVB is the man.

    Without sounding too idealistic, Bale has the chance to be the driving force behind Spurs growth into a top club. I truly think they are only a couple of players short of being world class (striker, defender), and with CL money I think Levy could make a couple of key strategic additions. I know this is all a bit over the top, and lots would have to fall into place for this to happen, but it is hard not to be optimistic when Spurs are playing this way. Jesus.


    • I really hope we win this weekend, if only to curb this type of rampant enthusiasm. A Sp*rs fan with hope is a sure sign of the apocalypse.

      Moreover: I’m all for science and all, but do you, Richard, honestly think that if Bale got injured or was otherwise unavailable for the remainder of the season that Sp*rs would remain in third? Because that’s ridiculous and unprovable

      • They might not. Team shot percentage with Bale is higher. Might be him, might be luck. But the team plays as well without him in terms of controlling play.

        • Richard, yes the stats prove it, BUT given Adebayor isnt scoring AT ALL, and Sigur just scored his first goal for the club and Dembele given his UEFA Cup heroics and the injured Defoe out…where are the goals going to come from. The stats without Bale could be as a result of Defoe playing and scoring goals and them playing weaker teams, maybe.
          I know they tried playing Dembele as a lone striker during the ACC, but still…
          With Bale in the squad you have a treath on the wing, who can cross, and since he is double teamed, i would hope so, it opens space for other players to create and score goals…
          Without Bale and given the current squad, they might not fare well against say an Arsenal, even tho they are going thru a bad patch.

          • If Bale is scoring other players don’t need to score. The fact that they are not scoring right now does not prove that they would not score with Bale out – that a logical fallacy. Look at to ManU for the flip side of the argument.

            How many goals did Rooney score last year? How many goals has Rooney scored this year? Is that because RvP is now on the team and in position to score? If RvP were not playing next year, does Rooney’s goal production this year mean it would be the same next year? Of course not.

            Scoring is not a zero sum game, but its close; any given football team is going to score a certain number of goals in a season. The individual taking the shot obviously has an effect on whether that shot will go in, but the set-up and position of that shot is also a huge factor – take a look at how Opta rates the liklihood of scoring based on the position of the field it is taken from. And the position that a shot gets taken from is largely dependent on the 10 other players on the field getting the ball to the striker in that position.

          • Comparing Spurs to United, their style of play, and everything else is ridiculous. Yes spurs beat United and outclassed them but that doesnt mean you make that comparison

            As for the Rooney argument, because of RVP, he is not expected to score. Plus if you watch the games he plays out of position on either wings and sometimes as a true number 10, to set up other players. Last season he was their primary striker with a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-2-1 or 4-4-1-1 formation. This season beacuse of RVPs presence United play a 4-3-3 formation where RVP is not required to track back and Rooney does and is required to do so. Rooney role on the team is very different now. United are not dependent on Rooney scoring or as recent times have shown on RVP. They both are class and are required but unlike Spurs, United do fine without them scoring off late

            Bale is scoring because of his class and yes it has to do with him getting more of the ball and position of other players, but saying that if Bale isnt playing X Y Z would score needs a reality check. Given a span of 10 games withour Bale, Spurs will fall ofcourse given they dont play the bottom pack, but still West Ham is not a TOP of the table club and still they needed brilliance from Bale to win the game. If Bale isnt playing, who scores those freekicks, who makes defenders panic with his strength and pace…I dont see anyone on the Spurs team doing so at the moment

          • T – Thanks for making my argument for me!

          • Let me see if I can make this simple for you:
            Your argument for Bale being essential to Spurs was that other players on Spurs are not scoring

            My counter argument:
            Bale is scoring so other players don’t have to – does not mean that they can’t, given different conditions; therefor (implied) if Bale was gone, those players which you say can’t score, could very well start scoring.
            Proven by:
            1. Last year Rooney scored a lot
            2. This year Rooney has scored less
            1. RvP and different playing positions, which you so admirably lay for me.
            ie. Different playing conditions and partners for a given player can lead to more or less goals.
            Therefore if Bale were not on Spurs, other Spurs players could very well pick up the slack (the same way the addition of RvP meant Rooney doesn’t have to score as much – can you understand the inverse relationship of that?)

          • Who exactly are you comparing RVP and Rooney on the Spurs to?
            Yes those players could start scoring and it could be that Spurs as mentioned before score more goals when Bale is not in the team, but to suggest that they would be OK or better without him is in my opinion wrong.
            Even with Bale in the team, Spurs tend tot struggle against the so called top 4, and sometimes without him they look a more balanced team with free flowing football, since everyone gets touches on th eball and its spread on both wings.
            But what I am trying to say is that no matter how many goals the rest score, in the long run they are better WITH him and have a better chance at the top 4 than without.
            If United, Barca, Madrid offered 40 + for Bale in the summer, I am sure Spurs would accept it and they should and spend wisely on 2-3 other creative players, but given the nature of the EPL, the attributes of Bale as a complete winger/attacking midfielder, they would struggle to remain in the Top 4 discussion next season, given they dont make the CL.
            I know no player is bigger than the team and Spurs succesfully for the most part have replaced Modric, but Bale is something different.

  3. Wow, s Sp*rs fan with hope. What has the world come to? I too am hoping for an Arsenal win next Sunday. I’d definitely take another 5-2 ass kicking but a hard fought 2-0 would be good too. Sp*rs are a one man team at the moment. Without Bale, Sp*rs would be a mid table team.

    Down with the SP*RS!


  4. do the gunners not always finish ahead of spurs no matter where the teams lie this time of year? just to clarify

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