Pandemonium immediately ensued, as commentators, analysts, supporters and journalists clambered to assess how much damage the Welshman had suffered to his right ankle and, synonymously, how much damage Spurs would suffer to their season’s ambitions.
However, every action has a reaction, every problem a solution, and every cloud a silver lining – there are some positives Tottenham can take from layoff to their star man.
Whilst it looks as though the injury is less serious than it first appeared and manager Andre Villas-Boas hopes the 23-year-old can return to training in a couple of weeks, an injury to Gareth Bale might not be as untimely as it seems.
1) Bale has had his best season to date and been in sensational form, and subsequently he’s attracted a number of suitors and admirers both at home and abroad.
Speculation hasn’t yet subsided with ‘interest’ from Real Madrid and Manchester United who, according to reports, are keen on making an approach for the player this summer. If he’s injured, he can’t be sold – he won’t pass a medical.
2) Bale has been so tremendous for Spurs this season that it’s looked at times as though he is carrying the team and there may be some justification in that a number of his teammates can rely on him to work his magic and therefore coast through games themselves.
Without Bale, Villas-Boas knows full well, and will certainly impress upon his players, that they all have to pull their weight. They can’t simply remain passengers, sit back and relax whilst Bale drives them on – someone must and no doubt will take the wheel in his absence.
Players like Gylfi Sigurdsson, Moussa Dembele, Clint Dempsey, Emmanuel Adebayor and January signing Lewis Holtby will now have their opportunity to step up to the plate. They ought to grab it with both hands and prove to the boss they are important players to Tottenham.
3) On that note, in Bale’s absence, not only will others have their chance to shine but they’ll, likely through necessity, improve. They’ll have to. They’ll have to work harder, want it more, up their game, and fill the void of top quality – not just in his goal tally (27 goals this season) but his assists (15) and his creative play.
Although this period will likely be a learning curve and a trial by fire for some, as well as a process of trial and error for the manager, in the long run the team will be fortified and better for it.
4) They might even be able to finally silence all those ‘one man team’ critics – Bale’s display this season means that he’s completely run (and stolen) the show. But Spurs do have other players, ten on the pitch with him at any given time and they deserve some credit for their contribution.
There is no such thing as a ‘one man team’ in all actuality – if one player is performing well it is likely because the team has been set up to facilitate his game. Spurs have been designed as a machine that functions around Bale as the cogwheel. Similarly to Luis Suarez at Liverpool, the style and system has been employed to serve him.
Spurs will now have to adjust that style and system – especially with Aaron Lennon also out, they do not have their two paciest players – and they will have to adapt, improvise and innovate their Plan A if they are to overcome these obstacles.
5) Finally, it will be a great opportunity for Villas-Boas to properly and comprehensively assess his team and squad as he heads into the summer transfer market imminently.
I mentioned that Bale’s injury provides an opportunity for bit-part and fringe players on the periphery to step up, stake their claim over their place in the team and, ideally, improve.
Those who fail to fulfil that obligation to the club, the manager, and the fans may well find themselves surplus to requirements come July. Use it or lose it, as they say. There are a few players on the books at White Hart Lane for whom the jury is still out on.
This is their chance to impress the manager and cement their status in his mind and plans. With Bale in the team it’s harder to gage truthfully who is up to scratch and who may need to be moved on to make room for new faces and fresh starts.
One thing’s for sure, he should invest in buying another Gareth Bale in case his main one gets injured.