Tottenham Hotspur will be without their leading talisman Harry Kane for their trip to Brighton & Hove Albion this evening, which is probably Jose Mourinho’s biggest nightmare.
“There are some players you can’t replace,” said the 58-year-old after defeat to Liverpool in midweek.
It now provides a major problem for the next few weeks with Kane on the sidelines – does he push Heung-min Son up front as he did last January? Does he trust Carlos Vinicius? and what of Gareth Bale?
Since his sensation return from Real Madrid in the summer, it certainly has been a curious case for Bale in north London. Indeed, he’s only started one Premier League match and has been restricted to 722 minutes in all competitions.
Injuries and fitness issues hampered his chances in the lead up to the festive period but after his first 90 minutes of the campaign against Wycombe Wanderers six days ago, he’s surely set to benefit in Kane’s absence – or at least, he should.
Earlier in the season, BT Sport pundit Owen Hargreaves hinted that a tactical change could benefit the Welsh superstar tenfold. After a 3-1 win over Ludogorets, he told viewers [5th November 19:10]:
“Out wide, he’s got to be tracking back but with his fitness, he isn’t going to do that,” adding “[Through the middle], he is closer to the goal and that’s what you want. He could be unplayable.”
In his final season at Spurs under Andre Villas-Boas (2012/13), the £18m-rated attacker was deployed centrally ten times and it paid dividends as he bagged six goals and delivered five assists, via Transfermarkt.
This trend continued briefly at Madrid where in 41 games, Bale provided 27 goal contributions, so there is a possibility we see him deputise in Kane’s absence.
Even if Mourinho doesn’t see him as a striker, there’s a chance he still comes into the starting XI. If Son is pushed further forward, there will be a need for a winger.
Whilst Bale has barely featured this campaign, he has still scored four times – once in every competition – at a rate of one goal every two games (180 minutes).
By comparison, Lucas Moura has bagged once in the Premier League since December 2019 with Steven Bergwijn suffering a similar barren spell of form as his last goal in the English top-flight came in June – the first game back post-lockdown.
In November, the 31-year-old came off the bench against tonight’s opponents, Brighton, to score the winner. In just 20 minutes of action, he was rated better than any other Spurs player (7.7) per SofaScore.
Following the game, Mourinho said: “He knows we care about him and we know he cares about us, the team and the club, Spurs. He’s the perfect fit, he’s very calm, very intelligent, he has good feelings.”
On his day, he has the ability to cause anyone nightmares, which is why he needs to be given that opportunity this evening. He could well be that ‘unplayable’ game-changer that Hargreaves mentioned and Spurs may well need with the 19-goal and 14-assist Kane absent.
Bale won’t have a better time to break into the starting XI than now, whether that’s on the wing or through the middle, so the Spurs boss must unleash him against the Seagulls tonight so he can finally prove himself in his second stint at Tottenham.
AND in other news, £36m-rated calamity who was ROASTED by Mourinho must be AXED tonight!