Michael Sumsion looks at Tottenham's impressive rise and the players who have complimented Gareth Bale.
There has been much discussion of late about the staggering form of Tottenham’s prized asset, Gareth Bale, since the turn of the year. All of it warranted, as he has moved up two or three extra gears in his performances since Christmas. Match-winning goals and incisive, dazzling displays have become the norm for him.
However, amidst the clamour to acclaim the Welsh star, there has been a remarkable development within the team as a whole during this period. They have become a smooth, efficient machine, able to win when not firing on all cylinders and quietly assured about their business.
There is a fluency from the goalkeeper (Lloris has looked very solid so far) up to the attackers, which masks the obvious missing ingredient, namely the presence of a top quality striker.
It is greatly to the manager’s credit that his side have succeeded this term despite the continued lack of a six-yard box poacher in the ranks. AVB has gone about his work with an understated self-confidence and not made an issue of the team’s one shortcoming, astonishingly even improving the team in the process.
Dembele, Parker, Lennon, Dempsey, Sigurdsson, Caulker and Defoe ,when he has been fit , have all contributed significantly in 2012/2013, but for me the player whose performances have compared with Bale’s is Vertonghen, the fleet-footed, enterprising Belgian who can seemingly play in any position on the field.
Nominally a centre-back, though courted by no less a judge than Arsene Wenger as a holding midfielder, and often used by Spurs as a rampaging left back in Ekotto’s absence, Vertonghen fulfils all the requirements of a Dutch-style ‘total footballer’.
To me, his consistent excellence has been as pivotal to Tottenham’s resurgence as the inspirational dribbling and goalscoring feats of the Welsh wizard. Immaculate tackles, surging runs with the ball into midfield and down the flank, close control and vision to match that of a midfield schemer, an eye for a goal, good with his head and radiating a joy in his work which spreads to the rest of the side, this has been a superb debut season for him.
A word, too, about Dembele, a colossus of a player in midfield, whose best position is still uncertain. An athlete, a destroyer and a ball-playing artist rolled into one, Tottenham’s other Belgian star only needs to add a greater goal threat to his armoury in order to establish himself as a modern footballer of the highest class.
Spurs have benefited enormously from the speed at which he breaks up opposition attacks and carries Spurs forward, often within the blink of an eye . The classy movement and release of ball to Lennon, for example, in the run up to the second goal against Inter this week, was your archetypal Dembele manoeuvre. Economical, at pace, taking players out of the game with delicious close control and awareness.
Perhaps most impressive of all has been the collective will in this team, the drive and desire to put in maximum effort for the greater good of the club, all over the pitch.
There is a sense of a well-oiled machine operating clinically and with something in reserve, but the industry of the players in each game has been at a remarkable level.
image: © Jan S0L0