With Harry Kane sidelined for who knows how long, Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho has some big decisions to make as to how he wants to structure his team going forward. There’s none bigger than who he wants to spearhead his attack, and there are a couple of options at his disposal. However, one of the options — rather popular among Tottenham social media — is now off the table, and that’s Gareth Bale.
Speaking to the media after Tottenham’s 3-1 loss to Liverpool on Thursday, Mourinho was asked specifically about the possibility that the former Galactico could possibly step into the vacant #9 role, but he dismissed the possibility, saying that’s not where Bale wants to play anymore.
“It is a crucial moment for Gareth, he is feeling better and better. And, of course, when you lose a player of Harry’s quality and dimension, the other guys have to step up. And hopefully he can.
“[But] I don’t think Gareth likes to play as a striker. When he joined us, he was very objective with me by saying he doesn’t feel he is a left-winger like he was before, he doesn’t feel like he is a No. 10 like he was before, too.
“The position he likes to play is the position where we are playing him every minute we give him, which is the right side of the attack.”
So, this is one of the things that is both something that any manager might say in the context, but also is something that bugs the hell out of me about Mourinho — his ability to couch things in a negative manner. Obviously we don’t know the full circumstances about how Gareth Bale fits into how Mourinho wants Spurs to play, we’re not in training, we’re not privy to private conversations. But what we have seen, especially recently, is that despite having that Galactico pace from earlier in his career, Bale is still pretty good in and around the opposition’s box. He knows how to hold up the ball, he’s got bursts of pace that served him well against Wycombe, and he absolutely has good game state awareness. I think he’d be a pretty good hold-up striker in Kane’s absence, even if he wouldn’t (or couldn’t) do all the things Harry can do.
Do those skills potentially put him ahead of Carlos Vinicius or Son Heung-Min in the pecking order in Kane’s position? Nope. But it seems weird to me that he’d outright reject that as a possibility, just because Gareth says he doesn’t want to play there. Is Mourinho not the manager of this club? Can he not say to Bale “Hey, I know you may not like this but I’d like to see you at the #9 and see how it works”?
Or maybe he’s done this already and ruled it out. Who knows! I’m just upset that this is an arrow that’s been removed from Mourinho’s quiver.
With Bale out of the picture at striker, the options basically come down to Carlos Vinicius playing as a direct swap for Kane, or a rejiggered offense that has Sonny at the 9 and some combination of Bale, Steven Bergwijn, Tanguy Ndombele, Erik Lamela, and perhaps the ghost of Giovani Lo Celso behind him. Regardless of how Mourinho sets up his team, and we’ll know by the time Spurs play at Brighton on Sunday, Spurs are going to hugely miss Kane and his contributions.