Gareth Bale is having his most prolific season in a Spurs shirt, which has brought about comparisons with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
This week, our Welsh wizard added the Football Writers’ Association player of the year award to the PFA player and young player trophies, completing a full set of the individual honours.
So what better time to look at his top five performances this season?
This was a big performance, as having beaten Man Utd at Old Trafford and then Aston Villa at home, we’d lost four of our next six Premier League matches.
Liverpool really controlled large parts of this game and had Spurs on the back foot. They pressed us early in possession to force turnovers, whilst also keeping control through Joe Allen dropping between his centre backs to offer an out ball. This gave Liverpool 65% possession throughout the match, but despite their dominance, they were unable to keep Gareth Bale in check.
The Welsh international started brightly, torching Glen Johnson in order to cross for Aaron Lennon to open the scoring on 7 minutes. Then after Martin Skrtel fouled Clint Dempsey, he swerved in one of his now trademark free kicks.
The fast start was vital for Spurs, as Liverpool then came back in to the game through their pressing and ball retention when in possession.
They were unable to control Gareth Bale though, as his dribbling from wide areas on the left not only created the opener, but also retained a continued threat. He peppered Pepe Reina’s goal throughout the match, hitting the target almost as many times as a Liverpool side that had much of the ball.
Gareth Bale returned much earlier than thought to lead a comeback against a Man City side that had us a goal down and at arms length.
Starting now as a number ten, his first half display was largely forgettable. City crowded him out of the middle through their use of Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry sitting deep in front of their centre backs.
At half time, Andre Villas-Boas made a switch to move him out to the right. He now not had more space to work in, but playing as an inverted winger, he also turned the match by exposing Man City at their weak point, the full back zones.
With the Citizens playing very narrow and using Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy to provide their width, Gareth Bale was able to expose the space in behind. This started the comeback and lead to six of the most remarkable minutes in recent Spurs’ history.
With us rarely having troubled Joe Hart in the City goal, Bale was able to get in behind Gael Clichy twice to create and score a goal. He laid on the equaliser for Clint Dempsey with a deft pass with the outside of his left foot – a very difficult skill when playing on the right.
He then streaked through to torch Clichy for pace and expose the space behind once more, as he netted the goal that killed any chance of a comeback.
It was a great performance from Gareth Bale and a vital three points for Spurs to keep up in the race for a Champions League place.
Spurs winning at Old Trafford for the first time in 23 years was the most memorable thing about this game, but the performance of Gareth Bale was also a major highlight.
It wasn’t just about him tearing through the Man Utd defence and leaving Rio Ferdinand in his wake, but about his all round performance. Having scored just once in the first five Premier League matches of the season – a scuffed effort against Reading – this was really the game that got Gareth Bale rolling this term.
Whilst Aaron Lennon was playing extremely wide on the right to stretch the Man Utd defence out towards that side, Bale was beginning on the flank and then darting inside.
This was how we jumped out in to a 2-0 lead, with runners being able to hit the holes created in the Red Devils’ defence from deep starting points.
Gareth Bale was wide on the left when he laid the ball in to a cutting Jan Vertonghen to open the scoring.
He then hit the hole from deep when lighting up Ferdinand to make it 2-0.
With Man Utd pulling it back to 2-1, Gareth Bale received a ball played through the Man Utd inside right channel from Jermain Defoe. This area, as highlighted in my Man Utd 2 Spurs 3 match report, was key. Bale’s shot was saved, but Clint Dempsey was there to jump on the rebound and Bale had been heavily involved in all three goals on a historic day.
2) Aston Villa 0 Spurs 4
Spurs detonated Aston Villa courtesy of Gareth Bale’s first Premier League hat trick.
The Welshman started on the left as Andre Villas-Boas opted for a 4-4-2 with Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor up top. The highlight of this performance was his dribbling inside from wide on the left in order to end up in central locations.
Once in the middle, he was able to get a number of shots away.
It started with a long-range effort that was heading for the top corner, until Brad Guzan tipped it over the bar. It finished with all three of his goals in the second half coming after drifting in to the middle from his starting position on the left – a sign of his impending shift to the number ten position?
Not just content with scoring three, Gareth Bale also played a major part in the opener. His pass to Kyle Naughton, allowed the full back to feed Jermain Defoe to make it 1-0. Bale also put in a whopping eleven crosses from open play, creating four chances in a spellbinding performance.
This was really a clinic in how to expose space between the lines from a central starting position.
The highlight was a goal of the season contending drive in to the top corner from distance, but Gareth Bale was able to defeat the Hammer’s central midfield triangle. This was designed to limit his space and stop him, but the Welshman showed how to exploit it, starting with his opener after twelve minutes.
Guy Demel deflected a pass to Emmanuel Adebayor, but Bale was already in the pocket of space between Gary O’Neil and his central defenders.
A patient dribble across the Hammers defence and a well-timed shot found the corner.
This wasn’t the only case, as Bale drifted in to the space time and time again, as he took ten shots in the game, with nine from central locations. Several were from distance, a sign of his winner to come…
With the scores tied at 2-2, Bale produced his moment of magic after having driven with the ball in-behind West Ham’s central triangle and O’Neil once more.
Jussi Jaaskelainen could only watch his shot flew in to the top corner and Bale had won another vital three points for Spurs.
The drama of the late winner stole the show, but the performance of Gareth Bale to defeat a system set up to stop him was the most impressive thing.
What’s been your most memorable Gareth Bale performance this season?