Tottenham star Gareth Bale proving Roy Keane wrong and could prevent Jose Mourinho sack
Roy Keane was in typically blunt mood before Tottenham’s win over Burnley, clashing with colleague Jamie Redknapp in a heated debate about Spurs’ squad. He pulled no punches with his verdict on Gareth Bale. He said: “We talk about Bale and Bale came on last week [against West Ham] and made a difference. What did he do? He put in a corner. He’s come in to do big things and get them back in the top four but he can’t get in the team.”
As the teams later lined up on the pitch, Keane added: “He put a corner in and he put one over the bar, if that’s form then yeah…”
Bale responded as if he’d been watching Keane and Redknapp’s argument, in which the Manchester United legend said Harry Kane and Son Heung-min are Spurs’ only decent players, on his phone in the dressing room.
The Wales international made it 1-0 after just 68 seconds with an excellently-timed run to latch on to a sumptuous Son cross that he stabbed beyond Nick Pope from close range.
Just 13 minutes later, 30 yards from his own goal he released Harry Kane forward with a brilliant long ball down the left, the Spurs captain cutting in and beating Pope to make it 2-0.
And Bale notched a brace in the second half as he found space down the right, received the ball from Son and took one touch before curling in off the far post with his left foot.
It was only on Friday that Bale’s manager Jose Mourinho said of him: “He looks happier than ever. He looks confident. He’s in his best condition, yes. In his best condition since he arrived.”
He wasn’t wrong. The 31-year-old, finally, has found his rhythm at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and has directly contributed to seven goals in his past four games, even if three came against Austrian side Wolfsberger in the Europa League.
Bale is aware of the criticism that has come his way in recent months, some of it from Keane, who said just before Christmas: “I don’t see him getting back to the level he was a few years ago. I know he’s produced big moments in big moments – but he looks way off it.”
More recently, though, he’s looked much, much better.
Bale said himself after the win over Burnley: “I’ve been building up a little bit to get fully fit. I felt comfortable today. My form’s coming back.
“I know obviously you get a lot of criticism but I’m experienced enough to keep my head down, not say anything stupid and just to keep plugging away and do what I do and help the team.”
And how crucial the Welshman finally reaching the level that was expected of him upon his return to north London may be to Mourinho in particular.
Before Burnley, Spurs had lost five of their last six league games to tumble down the table.
Spurs have struggled to such an extent in recent months that questions have been asked of Mourinho’s future at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
He was only appointed in November 2019, replacing Mauricio Pochettino, and only in mid-December Spurs were being talked up as major Premier League title contenders.
Their form has collapsed since then to expose the weaknesses of Mourinho’s approach, murmurs coming from the training ground that players are not happy about the lack of work focused on attacking play.
But if two-time PFA Player of the Year Bale can play to this level from now until May, Spurs stand a far greater chance in all three competitions regardless of Mourinho’s tactics, which you have to say worked well in the first half of the season.
They take on Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final in April and an in-form Bale would be a major threat to Pep Guardiola’s side, on top of the connection between Kane and Son.
That match is one in which Mourinho’s trademark approach of soaking up pressure and hitting on the counter-attack will need to be executed to perfection if Spurs want a first piece of silverware since 2008.
Likewise, Europa League opponents Dinamo Zagreb won’t want to face the Real Madrid loanee in such a groove. Win that and Spurs are one of eight teams left in the European competition.
And the winger can also provide vital extra cutting edge in tight league games too. He has shown that in recent weeks.
Mourinho will certainly hope he can maintain it. Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is sticking by the Portuguese given he long craved having the former Chelsea and Manchester United boss at the helm.
There have been signs that the trademark Mourinho decline had begun but perhaps the emergence of Bale can spark life back into Spurs, as it did here.
Suddenly, things appear a lot rosier at Spurs. More of this over the coming weeks and Bale might just keep Mourinho in the job.
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