Analyzing Gareth Bale's Peformance for Tottenham vs. Internazionale
Tottenham welcomed Internazionale to White Hart Lane just three short years after humiliating them in the UEFA Champions League under Rafa Benitez.
Bale took up a central role in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and on paper, he was sandwiched between Gylfi Sigurdsson and Aaron Lennon.
But, as expected, he was given a license to roam from sideline to sideline, box to box. Moussa Dembele, Sigurdsson and Lennon were aware of this and adjusted their positions and tendencies accordingly.
Esteban Cambiasso started as the deepest of the midfielders and kept an eye on him, and for the opening seven minutes, stayed proximate to the Welshman so he was close enough to meet him head-on should he receive the ball.
But there was no dogged man marking, no shadowing. Cambiasso stayed close to Bale but not close enough, and an early jump left the Argentine grounded as a headed strike nestled into the bottom right corner.
Seven minutes in, 1-0 down. If there was ever a time to truly stick a man on him it was now, but in reality, the marking became even more lax.
Feeling the urgency of the situation, both Walter Gargano and Cambiasso started venturing further forward in an attempt to drive their underperforming side up the field, and this simply left even more space in between the lines for Bale to use.
He managed to get himself open several times, but his teammates weren't quick enough to find him. He was also running on the shoulder of the last defender when possible and drifting wide to the right in order to test Juan Jesus' pace.
At halftime, Inter looked defeated, and Stramaccioni responded by sending on star man Rodrigo Palacio.
While the Nerazzurri coped a little better, Spurs noticeably took their foot off the gas; there was less intensity, less of a need and arguably less of want to go for goal quite so often.
But when you keep Bale quiet in open play, he stings you from set pieces.
Lyon kept him reasonably quiet as Maxime Gonalons and Co. did a job on him, so he responded with two sublime free kicks.
Against Inter, his impact in the second half was muted because he wasn't required to explode, but that didn't stop him from sending in an inch-perfect corner for Jan Vertonghen's killer third goal.
But it was a wonderful team performance, and if there was any tactical progress made by Andre Villas-Boas' men on Thursday, it was that Bale's teammates continue to grow more accustomed to him roaming around.
The positional flexibility and understanding from Lennon, Dembele, Sigurdsson and Jermain Defoe was, in all honesty, brilliant.
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