COMMENTARY | One cannot discuss Tottenham Hotspur for long these days without mentioning the name of Gareth Bale.
All anybody outside of the player's inner circle and a few people at White Hart Lane know for sure as of the typing of this sentence is that Bale, who continues to be linked with Spanish giants Real Madrid, has been held out of club and international duty because of a foot injury. We also know that Bale has not yet handed in an official transfer request, and that he is not, according to manager Andre Villas-Boas, likely to feature for Spurs this month.
All got a glance of what a Bale-less Tottenham would look like when Spurs were away to Crystal Palace this past Sunday. Truth be told, the 1-0 scoreline flattered Palace, who only really threatened the visitors in the waning minutes of the match. Spurs absolutely should have returned home having netted two or three tallies, and anybody who says otherwise is merely trying to get a story over rather than dictate what occurred on the pitch.
Tottenham's wing-play was unsurprisingly fluid against their over-matched opponents. Aaron Lennon tore Palace apart throughout the contest, and he probably would have had an assist in the first half had he played a ball back toward the outskirts of the penalty area rather than right in front of goal for Roberto Soldado, a cross that never made it to its intended target. Kyle Walker was his usual mixed bag of good and bad play, combining curious runs down the center of the pitch that were never really going anywhere and a couple of dreadful turnovers with multiple pinpoint through balls that, on another day, would have resulted in goals.
Some may want to point out that Tottenham was missing a true playmaker on Sunday. Granted, the midfield play was lacking at times, but such a statement fails to address that two awful misses in the final third, one apiece from Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jermain Defoe, and not a lack of quality passes led to the visitors only being up 1-0 entering stoppage time. It was those two moments that showed where Spurs will miss Bale the most if he does make a move to Spain at some point over the next two weeks.
Looking at the team's current squad and also not knowing for certain what Spurs would do with any money earned in selling Bale, it's clear that the club would be in the same predicament it was in last season if its star leaves: having just one clinical finisher. That man was Bale in 2012-13. It would be Soldado this time around.
Counting on one player to carry you to victory week in and week out is dangerous business. It worked in a way for Arsenal when it had Robin van Persie, but merely finishing fourth and with no trophies is not Tottenham's goal moving forward. Spurs were lackluster last spring when Bale went down with an ankle injury. Who can't say they'd be in the same spot at some point during the current campaign if Bale is not adequately replaced and Soldado misses a significant amount of games for whatever reason?
Tottenham has a better overall squad right now than it did last August. With that said, those dreaming of Spurs chasing the title had better take a couple of giants steps back. The club is going in the right direction, sure, and losing Bale would hardly cripple Spurs regardless of who they acquire in exchange.
After watching them play 90+ minutes of meaningful football, however, I can now say that they'll need to hold on to their prized player for one more season if they are to flirt with finishing in the top three of the league table.
For more: Spurs beat Palac.
Zac has been covering the USMNT, Holland, Tottenham Hotspur, New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
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