It’s always difficult losing a loved one, but for Tottenham fans the grieving period must be short. The target for the season is a top four finish and without Gareth Bale they will be relying on their new influx to provide the goals and creativity that the Welsh talisman takes with him. While his departure appeared inevitable for months Spurs appear to have been caught short; despite buying heavily this summer should they have been thinking further ahead, longer ago?
Bale’s talent can not be overstated. His progression from wing-back to forward has seen him mature from a promising left back to a devastatingly brilliant attacker. He is strong, lightening fast, and has a left foot whose power is almost unrivalled in world football. Any side would miss him, but Spurs may be better placed to begin life after Bale than meets the eye.
Statistically things don’t look good for Tottenham. Bale was their top scorer last season with 21 goals, or 32% of his side’s goals, a figure only bettered by Michu, Luis Suarez, and Christian Benteke. He also provided the winning strike in almost a quarter of Spurs wins and only a handful of sides have shown more attacking reliance on one player over previous seasons.
The question we have to ask is, were Spurs’ prepared for his departure? To replace a player like Bale, the fulcrum of a team, can take years, and Spurs should have had a head start.
Bale’s rapid move forward in the line-up, eventually playing almost as a striker, seems to have surprised Spurs to such an extent that they panic-sold all their midfielders to accommodate him.
Rafael Van der Vaart, Steven Pienaar, Giovani Dos Santos, Luka Modric, and Niko Kranjcar all went in the same window, leaving Bale by default as the star player. Now, they have had to build a squad, almost from scratch, devoid of any one stand-out player.
Fortunately, Madrid were happy enough to pay a mammoth £85.3million to secure Bale’s signature, the promise of which aided Tottenham’s £100million summer spending spree. Andre Villas-Boas has brought in five attacking players, breaking the club’s transfer record three times, with only one other forward, Clint Dempsey, leaving.
Of these signings, almost none are the finished Premier League article: Nacer Chadli, from FC Twente, is unproven in a top-class European league as is 21-year-old Christian Eriksen, despite Roberto Soldado’s early goals he already looks to be struggling as the lone striker, and record signing Erik Lamela is an exciting talent but seems totally unused to the pace of the Premier League.
It is only Paulinho who looks to have settled quickly. He holds the key to giving Tottenham a fighting chance in the opening skirmishes of the season.
There is nothing to say that these players won’t adjust to the league and the system (although it seems unlikely thus far) and propel Spurs to a top six finish but if they want Champions League football next season though, that will have to happen awfully quickly. If it doesn’t, then some of these mercenary players’ eyes may very quickly be drawn elsewhere.