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Bale shows poaching qualities but awful defending will worry Mourinho

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ottenham took another step towards a first trophy since 2008 with a battling 3-1 win on a wet, windy, Wednesday night at Stoke City to reach the Carabao Cup semi-finals.

Gareth Bale gave the hosts a first-half lead with the second goal of his homecoming but the hosts equalised after half-time through Jordan Thompson.

Spurs regained the lead through the unlikeliest of sources as Ben Davies scored for the first time since 2017 with a low drive, before Harry Kane wrapped up the win.

Here’s what we learned at the bet365 Stadium.

Bale 2.0 displays poacher qualities

( Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images )

Jose Mourinho has warned that Bale is now “a different player” to the explosive forward who left Tottenham in 2013 and the Welshman’s goal was a reminder of this Bale’s qualities. A deft flick from Harry Winks‘ cross was the second header from inside the box that Bale has scored since his return.

Bale 2.0 is not going to run games from the left wing or eviscerate reputations as he once did to Maicon, but he remains a canny and experienced goalscorer, capable of finding space in the box and finishing like a poacher.

Bale was ineffective on the wing in Sunday’s defeat to Leicester and Spurs should consider playing to his strengths by putting him in positions to score. He could even play up front in tandem with Kane, who has excelled at dropping deep this season.

Shambolic defending will concern Mourinho

( AFP via Getty Images )

The defending for Stoke’s goal must have raised Mourinho’s blood pressure. Individually and collectively, the visitors were all at sea as Thompson netted from close range. There was absolutely no sign Eric Dier, who was caught high up the pitch, while left-back Davies was also out of position.

Davinson Sanchez was dragged to the left but could not stop Jacob Brown from crossing and Matt Doherty looked lost before Thompson finished. Hugo Lloris might have done better with his shot inside the post.

It was the kind of wayward defending that Spurs have largely ironed out this season and underlined the difference between Mourinho’s first-choice back four – which includes Toby Alderweireld, Sergio Reguilon and Serge Aurier – and their understudies.

It is no wonder the manager wants to add a top centre-half in January. His squad looks thin defensively.

Winks impresses on return

( Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images )

It has been an encouraging few days for Winks, who came off the bench against Leicester to feature in the Premier League for the first time since the 3-3 draw with West Ham in mid-October and helped restore Spurs’ shape.

In the absence of Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso – both, presumably, missing with knocks sustained against the Foxes – Winks started at the bet365 Stadium and played a significant role in the victory, with a fine cross for Bale’s goal.

Spurs have struggled to keep the ball and progress it forward without Lo Celso or Ndombele and if the pair are going to be out for any period, Mourinho should surely consider trusting Winks in the Premier League again.

( Getty Images )

Dele Alli‘s evening is unlikely to have changed Mourinho’s thinking about the 24-year-old, particularly given he lost the ball with a flick in the build-up to Stoke’s goal. Mourinho appeared unimpressed and hooked Dele for the returning Erik Lamela not long afterwards.

Everything Dele does at the moment feels under special scrutiny as he tries to convince Mourinho of his worth and with the January transfer window looming large. He was actually bright in the first half and was twice denied by veteran goalkeeper Andy Lonergan.

Instead of a night that may have changed the narrative, his loss of possession was ultimately his most influential contribution to the game, which was not missed by his manager.

( Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images )

Spurs were boosted by the return of Lamela, who replaced Dele for the final 25 minutes for his first appearance since November 1. Spurs have missed Lamela’s battling qualities and he would have been useful in last week’s matches against Crystal Palace and Liverpool, when Spurs were trying to protect their position, rather than look for more goals.

Lamela will never be more than a squad player but he is exactly the kind of no-frills character Mourinho likes to have around, so it would not be a surprise to see the Argentine get more minutes in the League soon.


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