Jose Mourinho should have started Gareth Bale against West Ham as Tottenham man stars in second half of narrow defeat
Gareth Bale issued a response to any doubters about his hunger with a brilliant second-half display in Tottenham’s narrow 2-1 defeat against London rivals West Ham.
The Wales international has made just two starts in the Premier League since returning to the club on a season-long loan deal from Real Madrid in what has been a frustrating spell to date.
However, he certainly staked a claim for a more regular starting berth under Jose Mourinho with his impact at the London Stadium.
Former West Ham striker Dean Ashton was disappointed not to see Bale start the match, with the 31-year-old registering a goal and an assist in Thursday’s 4-1 Europa League victory against Wolfsberger.
“It’s strange that he hasn’t been given more of a run in the side to play with Son and Kane to maybe build up that relationship with the two of them.
“That’s what I think everybody when Gareth Bale came back to the Premier League was almost licking their lips to see how well he’d link up with Son and Kane; but we just haven’t seen it.”
Speaking during the first half of Sunday’s contest with the Hammers one goal to the good, Ashton added: “Any sort of opportunity Tottenham have is down this left-hand side – there’s absolutely nothing coming from the right-hand side.
“Why not have Gareth Bale out there? If he’s fit – he played well in midweek – why not start him in this game?
“At times I think Jose doesn’t play him as I think defensively he doesn’t give that stability he wants, which is why I believe [Steven] Bergwijn played so many games before being dropped because of the lack of attacking threat he possessed.
“He’s got to be fit now Gareth Bale – he’s not going to be any fitter than he is now.”
Ashton got his wish at half-time as Mourinho introduced Bale and Matt Doherty in place of Erik Lamela and Japhet Tanganga – and he certainly made his mark.
Jesse Lingard put the Hammers 2-0 up shortly after the break, but to Spurs’ credit they put up a valiant fightback as Bale’s superb whipped corner was turned in at the near post by Lucas Moura.
But that was as good as it got for Mourinho’s men, who have now lost five of their last six Premier League games.
Ashton said on Bale’s impact and subsequent assist: “He’s some player. He’s been absolutely brilliant in this second half – so direct and full of quality. He whipped that ball with a brilliant technique to get a lovely top spin on the ball.
“He’s made such a difference. What the introduction has done is suddenly West Ham have a big issue. They’re got a threat down the left and right now.”
Bale later rattled the bar with a powerful left-footed drive after Harry Kane pulled the ball back to the edge of the penalty area.
Ashton added: “It’s the best I’ve seen him in a Tottenham shirt since he returned. He’s been absolutely magnificent. What technique that is from Gareth Bale as that comes back to him. He’s looked so sharp and energetic today.”
Speaking after the match, Ashton concluded: “It was clear that Bale was great in midweek and should have started. They allowed West Ham to get themselves in front. It’s always hard when you go two-nil down against a well-organised team like West Ham.
“If you’re going to have real ambitions of the top four then these are the games you’ve got to win.”