Inside Lane: Spurs winger’s absence highlights a hole in the squad - again!

Tottenham blogger Ben Bloom considers the loss of Gareth Bale against Chelsea, and looks ahead to tonight’s Europa League clash against Maribor.

The defeat against Chelsea provided a worrying glimpse into life without Gareth Bale. The Welshman pulled out to attend his child’s birth and the knock-on effect was identical to similar situations over the past couple of seasons: when Bale or Aaron Lennon are injured, there is no-one to replace them.

Clearly Bale is a one-off talent, but it is the lack of anyone able to play in his position that is the concern.

Clint Dempsey (or Rafael van der Vaart last season) has been asked to fill the role but the problems then extend to the opposite flank where space is restricted. The scene has played itself out so many times that Spurs fans’ heads sink when either Bale or Lennon are ruled out.

So, other than praying that our Welsh talisman doesn’t get injured or procreate again any time soon, what can be done?

I had hoped the problem would be addressed in the summer with a move for an Adam Johnson or Junior Hoilett-type player. But a winger did not appear to be a priority for Andre Villas-Boas or Daniel Levy.

Indeed, when Bale and Lennon are fit there is no need whatsoever to look elsewhere. But we’re just one Charlie Adam tackle away from trouble...

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Barring injuries it would seem unlikely that Spurs will target another winger in the January transfer window – despite Shakhtar’s Willian offering encouraging words about his ‘friendship’ with AVB, it would be a surprise if Levy sanctioned a higher offer than the one that was rejected in the summer.

For now the new father Bale will return and immediate attention turns to the Europa League clash tonight with Maribor.

While Villas-Boas insists he wants to go far in the competition, his selections betray his priorities and few Spurs fans would fret if the team fails to progress past the first group stage. The sheer number of matches involved in the crazy competition makes a bid to finish in the Premier League top-four extremely difficult.

While supporters would no doubt back the team once the knock-out stages come around, the fear is that the effort to get there could do more harm than the benefits gleaned by a successful cup run.

And if Champions League football isn’t delivered next season, we may well have to get used to life without Bale.

Follow me on Twitter @benbloom2