Available from Spurs Writers' Club:
On Saturday evening at Goodison Park, Harry Redknapp decided to play Gareth Bale on the right side of midfield with Luka Modric moving out from central midfield on to the left. This selection was made for three reasons, to enable him to make a tactical change to the starting line-up with Scott Parker and Sandro playing a holding role in central midfield which allowed him to include Jermain Defoe and to cover on the right for the absence of the injured Aaron Lennon.
On all three counts the decisions proved unsuccessful as Everton dominated midfield from the start and it was only after half-time that Spurs really came into the game as an attacking force. Defoe offered little threat in that first half and rarely linked with his strike partner, Emmanuel Adebayor and with Bale and Modric both playing out of position, Spurs most creative players were restricted and Everton were handed the early initiative. If the thought of having Modric on the left was that it would create space for Benoit Assou-Ekotto to overlap, then again that failed as in the first forty five minutes the left back rarely ventured forward as would normally be his custom.
Early in the first half, Bale had an opportunity of a break on the right but as he took on the defender at pace, the Everton player knew to force him wide and keep him on his weaker foot. This he succeeded in doing and any danger was averted. It was only late in the first half after Bale moved over to the left that Spurs started to play with some greater purpose and cohesion. Again, in the second half after Rafael Van der Vaart replaced Sandro, Bale moved wide on the left and his attacking threat and danger to the compact Everton defence became obvious.
The absence of Lennon, due to a recurrence of his injury created a dilemma for Redknapp but his decision to move Bale to that position, weakened Spurs as an attacking threat on a number of counts.
- Gareth Bale is most effective on the left, ask Inter's Maicon, whereas on the right, he prefers to cut in to use his more favoured left foot.
- Modric has less opportunity to be influential when he is removed from his normal central midfield role.
- Bale on the right prevented Kyle Walker from playing his normal attacking role. Both players were wanting to get forward into the same attacking areas on the pitch and this wasn't possible. Walker and Lennon have developed a good understanding of how to play together just as Vedran Corluka had done previously with Lennon, but Walker and Bale don't have that understanding.
- Bale and Assou-Ekotto, however, work very well together on the left, both defensively and as an attacking force but that was missing on Saturday especially in the first half. Only after the interval did, Assou-Ekotto venture forward as Spurs became more dominant and attack minded.
Having suffered three successive League defeats for the first time since immediately before Harry Redknapp's appointment, the next ten days are crucial for Spurs to get themselves back on track. Progress to the FA Cup semi-final would not make up for a fourth successive League defeat or even four League games without a win so it is essential that Spurs achieve two wins in the next two games in order to prevent any self-doubts taking control. Whatever, decisions Harry Redknapp makes concerning the team, it is essential that Bale's role keeps him predominantly on the left where he is most effective and feared by opposing defenders.