From Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – An interesting topic-turned-meme brought about by Tottenham’s ‘All or Nothing’ Amazon Prime documentary was Danny Rose’s perception of himself.
At a time where he was averaging an error leading to a goal every 23 minutes (citation needed), Rose stormed into José Mourinho’s office demanding to play more, even threatening to speak to Daniel Levy about the situation.
Eventually, Rose pursued an exit in the 2020 January transfer window, with Bournemouth and Newcastle interested. He asked Levy about any contact with AC Milan. The Spurs chairman was visibly shocked that the question about one of the world’s most prestigious clubs was even put to him.
The mentality it takes to get to the top is something the ordinary person will likely never understand – the hours, days, weeks, years of sacrifice are almost unrivalled.
Rose was once the best left-back in England, but has been on a sharp decline since 2018. He must have known that he wasn’t at that level, but at the same time, he might have turned a blind eye to his waning abilities, engaging in some sort of doublethink.
The same situation could also be applied in part to Gareth Bale, who put in his best performance since returning to Spurs in their 4-0 win over Burnley on Sunday afternoon.
Tottenham fans remember Bale as a flying winger who became one of the biggest goal threats in Europe when given the keys to manipulate the attack as he saw fit. At Real Madrid, he stacked up his personal highlight reel on the biggest stages, before quietly (sometimes loudly) fading out of the limelight in recent seasons.
A 31-year-old Bale rejoined Spurs with the same technique he always had, but a far different player physically. Can you recall the last time you saw Bale skin his man?
Injuries and fitness issues have taken some of the Welshman’s peak years away from him, and he arrived back in north London injured and without a pre-season. It would have been a miracle for Bale to hit his stride before Christmas. When he started, you could see his disappointment upon substitution. When he was brought on, you could see his overwhelming rustiness and inability to match the pace of the game. Surely Bale knew this wasn’t the real him.
Tottenham topped the table in December but ran out of steam, with one of their issues being their inability to find a third attacker to keep up with and take the load off Harry Kane and Son Heung-min. The team around them pretty much collapsed too, while murmurs of squad unrest and the hierarchy’s interest in RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann have crept into the bigger picture.
Bale, much like Dele Alli, has scarcely featured this season. Unlike Dele, you can understand why. He’s spoken about managing his body, Mourinho has spoken of his trust in Bale to manage his body. Euro 2020 is around the corner and with the colourful injury history he has, it’s understandable that he wouldn’t want to overdo it in such a compact season.
The duo’s reintegration into the squad has coincided with some better team performances. After a winter spent hibernating in their shells, Spurs look confident on the ball, they have a direction; there aren’t many valid excuses for their abysmal form, but maybe that injection of quality was what Tottenham needed to reset themselves.
Bale put Tottenham ahead on Sunday after 68 seconds – his fastest goal in the Premier League. He picked out Kane with a 50-yard pass for their second. And when all had seemed lost in hope of rediscovering his pace, he even left Burnley defender Charlie Taylor in the dust, breezing past him like he was Maicon.
With Spurs fans’ heart rates just about returning to resting pace following one of their most enjoyable halves of football in years, Bale got them racing again with an emphatic finish early in the second half to put the game beyond doubt, before being substituted with 20 minutes remaining.
Quality players will always find a way to coexist, and Bale’s linkup with Kane and Son felt natural. Three of the league’s stellar names were on the same wavelength, and they were making the others around them better for it – Lucas Moura has now scored two goals in two games with that trident on the pitch together, for crying out loud.
Tottenham’s league position of eighth does not reflect the talent they have in their squad, but Sunday’s win is one of the first times in months that they put in a real performance worthy of a team fighting for a Champions League place, in the hunt to win the Europa League, in the final of the EFL Cup.
Spurs have six games to play in March, plus a rather needless international break at the end of it. Mourinho’s going to have to lean on his whole squad if he’s to navigate the month without more speculation regarding his future making the headlines.
He’s not going to be able to play every game, but when he does, Bale can help salvage Spurs’ season yet.