It's Gareth Bale vs. West Ham
On Monday, Gareth Bale will walk into Upton Park and square off against West Ham. The rest of Tottenham Hotspur may or may not be there, but Bale will and that's all that matters.
"That's Gareth Bale and he's been the major difference between Tottenham and the teams they've played recently," Sam Allardyce said astutely, likely after many an hour of watching film. "Not only has he scored very important goals, but they've been stunning goals at that. He's going to need some looking after on Monday night.''
Stop Bale, stop Spurs. Noted.
Unfortunately, there is some truth to Allardyce's statement. There is no denying that Tottenham has been completely reliant on Bale until Moussa Dembele's wonderstrike in the waning minutes against Lyon, at which point Spurs were on their way out of the Europa League. And eventually, Bale is going to need some help.
Now would be a good time to give Bale some assistance too because Spurs are ready to embark on the most important part of their season. West Ham is up today, but a match against Arsenal follows, then there is a clash with Inter Milan before Liverpool away and the second leg versus Inter.
Tottenham's season will be made in the next five matches. They hardly want to go into the Arsenal match with a one or two point lead on their rivals, one loss a way from falling out of fourth place. They hardly want to lose to the Gunners, ceding momentum and the confidence to their neighbors. They hardly want to fall to Liverpool either, on account of having dignity. And then there is Inter, the struggling team in the competition Andre Villas-Boas has prioritized.
All these matches are coming up and while it is unreasonable to expect Spurs to win them all, they will need a good run. It is the most important stretch they will face and it begins with West Ham, a struggling club that they need to take all three points from before things get really difficult.
So how does Tottenham make this run account? Help out Bale, of course. Or pray that Bale is superhuman -- one of the two.