Tottenham Hotspur: How Villas-Boas Might Start Preparing for Life Without Bale
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For all we know, his manager Andre Villas-Boas could already know his player will still be at White Hart Lane come August. If Tottenham steadfastly refuse to sell, it might be moot anyway.
Nonetheless, the prospect of a Spurs team without Bale's services heading into 2013-14 is an intriguing one.
Publicly, Villas-Boas will dare not contemplate such a notion. Privately, it is hard to imagine he has not at least pondered it.
Spurs had varying degrees of success in games last season when Bale was absent.
On New Year's Day, they comfortably dispatched Reading 3-1.
Aaron Lennon's presence ensured the team was still benefiting from a chief source of pace. Elsewhere, Jermain Defoe and Kyle Walker provided quickness in other areas of the pitch.
Ably supported by the likes of Mousa Dembele and Sandro—players operating at high level levels in different departments within the team—the side had the look of a team who could cope, if not necessarily thrive, without the brilliant Bale.
By springtime, when Spurs were without Bale's services again, the season had took its toll on several players capable of compensating for his absence.
Lennon was available for Internazionale away, but was clearly below par. A few weeks later—for Everton at home, and then the return leg at Basel—he, along with Bale, was on the sidelines, leaving Spurs severely lacking for means of penetration against stout opposition defenses.
Others—such as Dembele and Defoe—were battling niggling injuries, and even when available, were clearly tired.
The better quality of competition Spurs played during this period exacerbated these issues. As well as how big a loss the missing Bale was.
These experiences would almost certainly inform Villas-Boas' plans for a Bale-less Tottenham. As it stands, Spurs could get by to a certain extent without him.
A fit Lennon, along with the returning Andros Townsend, would ensure they retain pace on the wings (not to mention support from full-backs Walker and quite likely Danny Rose).
Given Bale's frequent deployment from central positions in the season's latter half, there are options here too. From using Clint Dempsey (the previous occupant of that role), to the arguments that could be made for Dembele, Tom Carroll, Gylfi Sigurdsson or Lewis Holtby in attacking midfield.
In the wake of Bale departing (and even if he stays), there will be money available to spend.
If the figure of £85 million being quoted in the aforementioned Daily Mail story has any truth to it, Villas-Boas would have resources to recruit players capable of replicating the pace and goals that are such a big part of his game—even if it does take more than one man for each job.
With a new winger, and certainly with a couple of top-quality forwards, there is a feasible scenario that Spurs could remain a viable top-four contender without Bale.
Without these additions, as already mentioned, Spurs could get by okay. But the club and its fans have gotten use to more than just getting by in recent years.
Even with some signings, maintaining Spurs' current standing is going to be a big ask in a Premier League that has several like-minded clubs.
As well as being without a fantastic footballer, losing the Wales international would also mean losing a man who has matured into one of the team's leaders.
These figures are not leaders in the way a captain or a defensive general might be. But all the same, they are people their teammates look up to, and rely upon to drive the team forward.
Bale might not to be in the class of a Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. What cannot be denied is that he occupies a similar role in the Tottenham side—without them, there is a spark that is missing.
Identifying similarly-inclined players to take up Bale's mantle might be Villas-Boas' biggest challenge in this scenario.
It is expected that players like Dembele and Jan Vertonghen will step up in this way regardless—such is the increasing influence they had on the Spurs team as the season progressed.
This will be a most welcome development for their manager. Still, someone capable of running the show for Spurs like Bale did, so often winning games almost single-handedly (at least in the decisive moments), that is harder to come by.
All this brings to mind those scenes in popular culture of secretive envelopes, cases or boxes, labelled "Plan A", "Plan B" etc, with one that is always opened as a last resort in the worst-case scenario.
Villas-Boas will be desperately hoping it does not get to the point he is seriously planning for life without Bale anytime soon. There will be so much uncertainty about the contents of that plan successfully working.
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