Off the Mark: Gareth Bale’s brilliance used to save Tottenham, now it’s the team’s turn
Spot the odd one out in this sequence.
Sergio Aguero: 11 games, 10 goals. Luis Suarez: Seven games, nine goals. Daniel Sturridge: 12 games, nine goals. Tottenham Hotspur: 12 games, nine goals.
That’s right. Three are individuals, one is an entire football club, a world-renowned football club who are expecting to challenge the elite teams at the top of the Premier League table and not have goalscoring records that would only stack up to the individuals who play for them.
The goalscoring problem at Spurs has been highlighted throughout their decidedly mixed start to the season, but at the weekend we saw a far more alarming concern come to light.
Granted, they were facing a trip to Manchester City – probably the toughest assignment in the Premier League just now – but their meek surrender and almost acceptance of a 6-0 hammering must be tough to take for Spurs fans, whose team are now priced at 4.60 to make next season’s Champions League with Bwin.
Those same supporters spent the summer putting on a brave face over the departure of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, and perhaps understandably looked towards the huge influx of players brought in with the money from his sale with expectation more than hope.
These players seemingly have it all.
There is Roberto Soldado’s excellent La Liga goalscoring record, Erik Lamela’s series of eye-catching displays in an entertaining Roma side, Christian Eriksen’s performances for Ajax which had scouts heading over to Amsterdam in their droves, Paulinho’s increasing importance for Brazil.
It is all there, and all of them are clearly fine players, but none of them is Bale.
Time and time again last season, the Welshman would ride to the rescue for Tottenham and Andre Villas-Boas with a timely intervention usually taking the form of a spectacular goal. “Where would they be without him?” we often wondered, and the answer was here.
But “here” isn’t actually that bad.
Spurs are ninth going into the weekend, but that is only four points off second placed Liverpool in this increasingly condensed Premier League table.
Following on from Thursday night’s Europa League distraction against Tromso in Norway, they welcome Manchester United to White Hart Lane on Sunday afternoon in what could just be the perfect game for them.
David Moyes and his men have hardly been impressive on the road this season, with their latest slip-up coming in the dying moments at Cardiff, and this could just represent the perfect chance for Spurs to inject some life into their season.
As well as the City drubbing, the recent home reverses against West Ham and Newcastle are likely to be on the minds of plenty of home fans who attend the game early on Sunday, but the players must sense that this is an opportunity for them to get back on track.
Win, and it will have been the perfect start to a week which also includes trips to struggling Fulham and Sunderland, matches in which it will be the team ethic that gets them over the line as opposed to any form of individual brilliance from one of their stars.
It was always going to be difficult for Tottenham at the beginning of this season due to the sheer number of new faces who had entered the building and were playing on the same pitch as each other before really introducing themselves, but a little more trust in one another could go a long way.
Soldado isn’t going to score the same amount of goals as Bale.
Lamela isn’t going to sprint at defences in the same manner that Bale did.
Eriksen isn’t going to score free-kicks like Bale.
And Paulinho isn’t going to dominate games like Bale.
Bale is gone, but Tottenham live on, and it’s about time that the team acted like it.
We need to talk about Kevin(s)
It is all well and good claiming that referees need more help and would benefit from a greater use of technology, but when they make errors as glaring as the ones that Phil Dowd and Kevin Friend made on Saturday it is hard to have any sympathy for them.
Kevin Mirallas’ lunge on Luis Suarez in the Merseyside derby wasn’t just a red card it was about three of them, whilst what an earth possessed Friend to dismiss Wes Brown in Sunderland’s clash at Stoke is beyond all rational observers.
So give referees help if they need it, sure, but make sure they get the basics right first, and if they don’t then ban them until they do.
Bluebirds can silence Gunners
Manchester City obliged last week, and this weekend’s best bet would be one that they’d welcome as well.
Title rivals Arsenal go to a Cardiff side who’ve already beaten City and drawn with Manchester United on their own patch this season, with another draw here looking like the way to go.