It has been a frustrating few months for Tottenham, as they have dropped down the league table and witnessed some turgid football under Jose Mourinho. The season now looks to be focused on the Europa League, as this is the best way to salvage the campaign. Mourinho was in a similar position during his first season as Manchester United manager, as his team finished outside of the top four, but managed to lift Europe’s secondary competition to earn Champions League qualification. Due to the recent stadium move and financial issues caused by the global pandemic, it will be important for Spurs to return to the Champions League at the earliest opportunity. To achieve success in the Europa League, they may need to integrate Gareth Bale.
Since rejoining Tottenham, the Welshman has been restricted to a minor role and some have suggested that Mourinho doesn’t trust Bale to give him significant minutes. For the majority of the season, supporters have understood the decision, as the 31-year-old looked a shadow of his former self when he was on the pitch. However, in the past couple of weeks, there have been signs that the attacker was reaching full fitness and there looks to be motivation to make this second spell a success.
He was the man of the match in the recent Europa League match against Wolfsberger AC, as he got a goal and an assist to give Tottenham a dominant position in the tie. There looked to be dynamism back in his game, as he regularly threatened the opposition defence. The Welsh international had two shots, four key passes and three successful dribbles. He completed all of his 16 passes and won four tackles. It was a complete performance that displayed his attacking quality and his work rate out of possession. The latter would have impressed Mourinho more, as the former was already obvious.
This earned Bale a 45-minute appearance against West Ham United, as Tottenham tried to come back from behind. Although they fell to defeat, it was a much improved display with the 31-year-old on the pitch, as he caused a lot of problems down the left flank. It was his excellent corner delivery that assisted Lucas Moura’s goal, while he could have had an even greater impact on the match with a little bit more luck. This was a more direct performance from the Real Madrid loanee, as he had three attempts on goal. He was inches away from an equaliser as his strike hit the woodwork as Spurs chased the game.
Over the past week, there has been a spring in the step of Bale and he has a yard of pace that he was previously lacking. The performance in the Europa League may have come against a low-quality opposition, but it has appeared to inject confidence into Bale’s game. Since his return, he has been restricted to 294 minutes in the Premier League. Based on the last week, it would be expected that he gets significantly more over the coming weeks and months.
Tottenham are facing a run-in with little room for error, as they try to win two competitions and retrieve a respectable league finish inside the top six. The lack of reliability at the back and constant defensive errors mean that Mourinho may have to rip up his playbook, instead relying on the attacking quality in the squad. Son Heung-min and Harry Kane have been the stars, but in Bale and Dele Alli, the Portuguese coach has two more options that have something to offer.
The second half against West Ham have shown a template that can work. Despite being vulnerable to the counter-attack, Tottenham were dominant in possession and carried a much greater threat. Supporters will fear that this was out of necessity, but Mourinho would be wise to carry on with this approach. If he does and Bale gets brought into the first eleven, there is still enough time for the Welshman to make sure that his second spell is a success.