Tottenham in USA: Spurs to Still Use Inverted Wingers Under Andre Villas-Boas
Results wise, preseason friendlies are pretty meaningless, but with a new coach in place, they can give a clue as to the pattern of play that will follow in the coming campaign.
Though he nearly didn’t last past the first 19 minutes against Liverpool after a nasty-looking foul from Charlie Adam, it was clear that Gareth Bale will not be restricted to hugging the touchline.
Since his proposed last-minute move from Blackpool to Spurs fell through just after midnight on the last day of the January transfer window in 2011, Adam seems to have gained an intensity when going into tackles against Tottenham.
He first ended Bale’s season with an awful foul while playing for Blackpool before deservedly getting sent off at White Hart Lane last season with a dangerous challenge while already on a booking. He was also robust in the return league game at Anfield, and continued that attitude today.
The foul could have resulted in an injury worse than any Bale may have picked up on a training run, or even skipping over challenges from Senegalese youngsters were he part of the Olympics in London 2012, rather than playing in Baltimore in a match Adam at times made look like an unfriendly game.
Bale started on the left of a front three but soon swapped with Aaron Lennon, in what was the first match they have both started together under Villas-Boas.
With only one striker, Bale and Lennon both have the freedom to come inside, running at pace against defenders who are backing off, as they did when they both came on as substitutes away at Wolves in 2010/11 and again countless times last season, when they swapped at will.
Lennon also stretched the play on the left several times last season, as well as scoring excellent goals from that side against Bolton and Fulham.
Bale also prospered when Lennon was on the left, scoring twice against QPR in one of Tottenham’s best performances during their excellent winning run last term. And the best Spurs performance of the season came at Norwich when Bale scored both goals while he was central in what was a totally fluid front three.
When Bale first had sustained success in the Spurs team it was from left-back in early 2010, attacking the space in front of him while Niko Kranjcar tucked inside.
And even many of his best performances when he started as a left-winger in a 4-4-2 have come from runs with deep, including his memorable hat-trick at the San Siro, his surging runs in the return game against Inter and his performance at home to Chelsea in April 2010 when he ripped their defence apart at will.
Great talents from Chris Waddle to Cristiano Ronaldo have benefited when changing from an orthodox wide player to an inverted winger, and if Spurs play very high-up the pitch under Villas-Boas, Bale may not have much space to run into playing on the left, so giving him freedom will allow him to do the most damage.
Mel Gomes is the author of the e-book, 'Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley', his journey documenting Tottenham Hotspur’s Champions League adventures. http://thesubstantive.com/the-substantive-published-e-books/
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