Still convinced Tottenham Hotspur are nothing more than a one-man team?
A funny thing happened after the assumed start of the latest edition of The Gareth Bale Show at White Hart Lane on Sunday: Spurs defeated hated rivals Arsenal as a team. The better overall side won, as Piers Morgan so eloquently put it during the FOX Soccer post-match show, and that result has Spurs still chasing a second place finish and also has Arsenal left with many unanswered questions. It wasn't all puppies and rainbows for Spurs at the Lane over the weekend, but Tottenham fans have plenty of reasons to be smiling at the start of the workweek.
I just hope all "mind the gap" comments will be put on hold until at least the springtime.
Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal: Team win
Each of Tottenham's February victories went through the previously mentioned Bale, but that wasn't the case yesterday at the Lane. In fact, Bale wasn't even the key man in the sequence that saw the Welsh wonder open the scoring eight minutes before halftime. That goal was created by a gorgeous pass from Gylfi Sigurdsson, Sigurdsson's second clever through ball of the half. Tottenham then found the back of the net two minutes later when Scott Parker, who had his best outing of the season on Sunday, played a perfect through ball into the box right as Aaron Lennon darted between two Arsenal players on a well-timed diagonal run. Granted, both of those goals were also the product of a poorly constructed high back line, but sports are often about taking advantage of given opportunities. That's exactly what Spurs did, and it's why they were up 2-0 at the break.
Three Tottenham players excelled at the other end of the pitch. Jan Vertonghen, my man of the match, and Michael Dawson were bosses of the defensive third, routinely shutting down Arsenal attacks before they were able to cause any problems for goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. Lloris himself was flawless, only being beaten by a header that was more unlucky for the France number one in that it deflected off of Bale's noggin than it was a precise attempt put forward by Per Mertesacker. In all, the best players on the pitch on Sunday were wearing Lilywhite. That, above anything else, is why Spurs emerged victorious.
Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal: Praise for AVB
Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas got little wrong on his second north London derby day. Starting Sigurdsson over Lewis Holtby was a move I certainly didn't see coming, and the 23-year old Iceland international rewarded his boss with a scintillating performance that could have been capped off with a second half goal had Sigurdsson tried to test Wojciech Szczęsny rather than passing off to Bale. Dawson, who was once (reportedly) a signature away from making an August move from the Lane, continues to find new life under AVB.
The "keep calm and pass it to Bale" jokes that have been circulating over the past month are cute, but make no mistake in realizing that this Spurs squad is currently all-in on the AVB era. Villas-Boas doesn't get enough credit for the way he has handled certain players in matches and on the training ground. Bale is Tottenham's star, of course, but Villas-Boas is a vital part of Spurs being where they are on the first Monday of March.
Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal: Moving ahead
Now that the joy caused by Sunday's result is subsiding, I'm left asking one significant question about Tottenham's future fixtures: Is it time for Villas-Boas to call it a day on this whole Europa League thing? Depth was already a problem for Spurs before Moussa Dembele and Emmanuel Adebayor picked up what AVB has since referred to as minor injuries, and Tottenham currently sit in third place in the Premier League table. They are two points ahead of Chelsea, seven points ahead of Arsenal, and, depending on what happens at the Etihad on Monday evening, Spurs could be one weekend away from being level on points with Manchester City.
The concept of winning the competitions you are in is not one that is lost on me. With that said, Tottenham's main objective for this campaign remains finishing in the top four and earning Champions League football. Nothing, not even a European trophy, is more important. Spurs have a rough stretch ahead of them in the league, one that includes trips to Anfield, Swansea and Chelsea, and also a home match against City. I'm very interested to see the team Villas-Boas picks for Thursday's showdown with Inter.
Zac has been covering Tottenham Hotspur, Major League Soccer, RBNY, the USMNT and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.