Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Van der Vaart and Bale give Spurs a new edge

Over the last few seasons Tottenham have bulit up a talented group of players which rivals the depth of any squad in the division. Harry Redknapp has had many injuries to deal with this season, particularly in defense where Gallas and Kaboul are working well together despite both not being first choice. This large squad means that Redknapp has viable backup options in all positions, in stark contrast to David Moyes’ situation at Everton. Even Roy Hodgson does not have the squad depth that Harry enjoys, and has publicly stated that Liverpool need to strengthen in order to manage the strains of a full season. Spurs proved their quality last season by finishing fourth, but this season may be the one where they gain the belief.

The top teams in Europe do not just have the best players, they also have the belief that they can win any game against any opposition. Manchester United currently do not have the most potent squad of players, yet remain unbeaten in all competitions. The mental strength that they display is both impressive and demoralising for opponents, who often lack the belief themselves. United’s comeback at Villa a few weeks ago is a perfect example of how this belief can destabilise an opposition team. If a team reaches a point in a match where they no longer believe that they can get a result, then the match is as good as over. Tottenham’s comeback at the Emirates on Saturday indicates that the players are beginning to believe in their own quality a little more.

This belief is stemming from the emergence of genuine world class ability at White Hart Lane. World Cup finalist Rafael van der Vaart has arrived at Tottenham with the right mentality already in place. He inspires his teammates by never giving up and revels in taking responsibility. His class is beyond doubt and he is at the centre of everything Spurs do at the moment, with a goal and two assists at the weekend. Stepping up to take the penalty at 2-1, Van der Vaart fixed a determined and inspiring stare towards goal, the jeering Arsenal fans faded into an insignificant background, there was no doubt. Van der Vaart wants to take responsibility and enjoys absorbing pressure and Tottenham benefit hugely.

A player with the determination and quality of Rafael van der Vaart needs outlets on the pitch who are willing and able to take advantage of the opportunities that he creates. Spurs have lots of quality in their squad, but in Gareth Bale they have a superstar in the making who is currently enjoying world class levels of form. His touch and finish at the weekend for Tottenham’s first goal were masterful. Bale looks as comfortable and assured in front of goal as he does when bombing down the left wing. His ability to manipulate the ball is extra impressive because he can do it at top speed. In the last year Bale has bulked up physically and has become an immense athlete. His speed and strength is intimidating to play against and his final ball is of such quality and pace that he is a striker’s dream to play with. On top of his wing play, he is now becoming a proven goalscorer.

Together, Bale and van der Vaart give Spurs that extra class which is often so crucial in key moments of games. An accurate final pass or a perfect first touch when in on goal can be the difference between winning and losing. Spurs have a new edge and are growing in belief - the Premier League’s power structure of old is increasingly looking over its shoulder.

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