Gareth Bale crucial to Tottenham's long-term ambitions
Tottenham must keep hold of their star-man if they want to achieve a top-four finish
There almost became a predictability about Gareth Bale’s brilliance last season.
The Welshman performed the unexpected so often that it became the polar opposite of it - expected.
If Bale didn’t do something spectacular fans would come away disappointed as the sight of Bale jinking inside, beating a man and thumping a long-range shot into the top-corner was seen with such alarming regularity.
Bale smashed in 21 Premier League goals over the course of last season, but ultimately Spurs fell short of the Champions League spots and, as a result, his future has been much speculated about this summer - with Real Madrid reportedly interested in bringing him to the Bernabeu.
It encapsulates another problem that has become too predictable at White Hart Lane. Failure.
That isn’t too say Spurs had a bad year last season, but too often they have choked at the final stages and allowed their arch-rivals Arsenal to sneak ahead of them. It is now 18 years since Spurs finished ahead of the Gunners in the table, despite numerous opportunities to do so.
However, with the Premier League looking as hard to gauge as ever before, the upcoming campaign once again represents an opportunity to finally claim the crown as the top club in North London.
To do this you get the feeling that it is imperative that Bale sticks around – for the Welshman is not only the finest player to represent either of the two clubs, but arguably the greatest player in England at present time.
That said, the term that Spurs were often branded with as being a one-man team regularly last season is somewhat harsh.
There is a depth to their squad that they haven’t had in many years and there are already signs that under Andre Villas-Boas the future could well be bright.
Despite their fifth placed finish – a position lower than the club had finished in the 2011/12 campaign – Spurs achieved their highest ever points total and number of away wins since the conception of the Premier League in 1992.
Villas-Boas has built on the team this summer, too. The addition of Paulinho looks an astute purchase – especially when compared to the signing of Fernandinho by Manchester City – and the Brazilian should provide more strength and power to an already imposing central-midfield line-up.
One of the major reasons for Tottenham’s end-of-season deficiencies last season was injuries to Mousa Dembele and Sandro, meaning that the club had to use the duo of the scrappy, but not technically able Scott Parker and the technically able, but immobile Tom Huddlestone as an axis to build on.
This year Paulinho’s arrival bolsters Villas-Boas’ choices in this area and the emergence of Tom Carroll as a creative figure in the squad also is a boost, although he is likely to be used sparingly.
Elsewhere, Hugo Lloris has made the transition to the Premier League with ease and has taken far less time to adapt to the robust style of English football than other talented ‘keepers have.
In-front of him Benoit Assou-Ekotto is oft derided, but his reputation doesn’t justify his ability, despite an obvious vulnerability defensively, whilst Kyle Walker faces the opposite, with his reputation surpassing his, even though he has the potential to be an excellent right-back if he continues to develop. But the likes of Michael Dawson, Jan Vertonghen and Younes Kaboul are all perfectly capable of playing at any club chasing a top-four place.
The aforementioned midfield trio are also added to with further talent ahead of them and should thrive with the spritely Aaron Lennon, creative Gylfi Sigurdsson and new-signing Nadir Chadli in-front of them.
The glaring addition needed, however, is a striker. For too long now Spurs have lacked a potent force up-front, despite constantly being linked to a clutch of world-class players every transfer window in this position.
And if Villas-Boas wants to push Spurs on to the next level it is quite clear that a clinical front-man is the acquisition that is desperately required – with Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor not looking adept enough to lead the line.
Without Bale, however, the squad looks strong rather than spectacular. It lacks a spark. And if Villas-Boas and Daniel Levy really do want to maximise the potential of this Tottenham squad any offer for the 24-year-old should be rejected.
Of course, there is no guarantee that even with their star-man the top-four will be breached, but if they choose to cash-in on him then those 18 years of hurt will only be extended and a perennial sense of failure will continue to be felt around White Hart Lane.
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