Talking Tactics: Robbie Savage on Spurs coping without Gareth Bale

Robbie Savage: Talking Tactics

In his regular BBC Sport column on football tactics, Robbie Savage takes a closer look at Tottenham's 1-0 victory over Swansea.

Spurs deserved to win but, even though they created a host of chances, the scoreline once again emphasised how much they rely on Gareth Bale.

The Welsh winger is currently injured and, quite simply, Tottenham do not have anyone that can replace him. It was only a Jan Vertonghen set-piece goal that proved the difference between the two sides.


Swansea were poor as an attacking force so Tottenham had the chance to establish a more comfortable victory. But Spurs only looked threatening when they pressed them high up the pitch, forcing the visitors to give the ball away. That meant the distance to goal was far shorter.

When they built an attack from the back they were too slow, allowing Swansea to form a 10-man defensive shield with central defenders Chico Florez and Ashley Williams particularly impressive.

Bale comes into his own in these situations: he gives them extra pace and it often takes two or three men to deal with him, therefore creating spaces in other parts of the pitch which Spurs can exploit.

Clint Dempsey started on the left instead of Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor pulled out that way in the second half.

But on occasions you could see when striker Jermain Defoe or midfielder Sandro got the ball in central areas, they took a look to the left flank and decided to go right instead. And on that side Swansea left-back Ben Davies had a good game against Aaron Lennon.

Tottenham also lacked width by playing Kyle Naughton at left-back as he usually plays right-back and naturally cuts inside.

Usually, Defoe is the biggest beneficiary of Bale's bustling runs and whipped crosses as he anticipates them before the covering defender. But when you haven't got a left footer on that side, they will have to cut back inside and, at times, Defoe had to check his runs to the near post.

Tottenham won in the end so it wasn't a huge issue on Sunday, but the big question will come if Bale decides to leave because they will have to change their style.

When he doesn't play, Spurs are unbalanced. Bale still has a lot to learn but, on his day, he is one of the best players in the world and if he continues in this vein he will want to play in the Champions League.

The top four is a realistic goal for Spurs, but if he wants to win trophies regularly he may have to leave White Hart Lane. Manchester City are missing someone of his calibre and I think Bale would give them the width they need.


Michu is equally important for Swansea and he showed plenty of endeavour on Sunday but I see him more as a deep-lying midfielder than a striker.

There is no doubt he can finish in either position but with Swansea not registering a shot on target against Andre Villas-Boas's team, you wonder if he needed more support. When he dropped back into midfield, Swansea lacked a presence up front.

They also missed Pablo Hernandez, who has been a key player for them this season, but manager Michael Laudrup will be pleased by the way his side defended and in the end it was only a free-kick that led to the winner.

This time last season Swansea were 12th in the Premier League rather than the 10th position they currently hold, so they are making progress and they are mixing their style of play up a little bit now by being more direct at times.

It says something that even though Brendan Rodgers and Joe Allen were worshipped in south Wales last season, now they are barely even mentioned.