Quite a week for Gareth Bale, now universally regarded as being up there alongside Pele, sliced bread, the wheel and opposable thumbs on the list of The Best Things Anyone Has Ever Seen Anywhere, Ever. Unfortunately, and I suppose inevitably, one publication has gone completely overboard in their praise of the chap, the Daily Telegraph going to the ludicrous extent of describing Bale as “photogenic”. Really, that’s what they call him. Here. Golly.
I jest. We who worship at the Altar of Bale don’t care a hang for his appearance, as he long as he stays free of injury and retains forevermore that enduring ability to go merrily a-shredding any defence that lays before him. Following the less-than-entirely-successful approach to stopping Bale adopted by Rafa Benitez in midweek, of granting him the freedom of White Hart Lane, it seems likelier that Bolton tomorrow – and every team thereafter – will take leaves out of the books of Everton and Man Utd by doubling up on the poor blighter at every opportunity.
As an aside, the boffins here at AANP Towers have mused whether a response to this approach might be to withdraw BAE, switch Bale left-back and move Kranjcar/Modders/AN Other to left midfield. Thus, Bale could begin his runs from inside his own half, reaching a full gallop by the time he is in the opposition half, and making it a tad more difficult for Bolton to latch onto him. Moreover, the presence of Kranjcar/Modders/Whomever already on the left would give the double-teamers something else about which to fret.
Admittedly it may not be as scientifically flawless as E=MC², but we will presumably need to adopt some sort of strategy to deal with the extra attention that now seems inevitable.
In fact, I would not be entirely surprised if ‘Arry opted to rest Bale tomorrow. Following the monumental efforts of Tuesday, one or two changes in personnel are probably to be expected amongst the starting XI, with Bassong, Corluka, Jenas, Sergeant Wilson, Sandro, Pav and Keane presumably all on standby (not entirely sure of the current status of Messrs Giovani and Bentley). While Bale has assumed the mantle of havoc-wreaker-in-chief, the heartbeat of the team on Tuesday was formed by Hudd, Modders and VDV, who between them pretty much controlled the game. Rest may be required for weary limbs, but I do jolly well hope that at least two of these three trot out for kick-off tomorrow afternoon.
Tuesday night’s heroics have done much to restore our reputation as a big domestic – and indeed European – name, a reputation that has been withering away over the last 20 years. However, more glorious European nights are required, and to this end top-four finishes are essential. A draw at Bolton would be a decent result; victory at Bolton would be a top-four result.