Life without Bale?
There is never a good time to lose one of your best players, but perhaps losing Gareth Bale for only two games might not be the end of the world.
Losing any key player is unquestionably a big loss, and we could perhaps compare Spurs losing Bale with United losing Van Persie or Chelsea losing John Terry, such is his quality and influence on the teams balance and performance. How the team cope without such players can often be the difference between success and failure and as Spurs have already found to their cost, losing a vital cog in their team can prove costly after we suffered with the loss of perhaps our other irreplaceable player in Mousa Dembele.
Missing Bale for a couple of weeks and potentially only one Premiership game shouldn't be seen as a negative and might even make us more compact and harder to beat at Goodison next weekend, whilst you would hope we have enough quality to overcome Panathinaikos. AVB may of course surprise us all in selecting our nearest like for like player in picking Andros Townsend on the left, but all logic tells me that we will see either Clint Dempsey or Gylfi Sigurdsson start on the left side, but their liking for moving inside might bolster our central areas and actually make us more solid even if it is slightly to the take something away from our attacking qualities. Everton away is perhaps one of the ideal games to be more solid, I would suggest.
With no Bale, it does give a player that would always expect to start an unexpected rest, and with a busy Christmas schedule approaching, that could easily be considered to be a good thing to keep everyone fresh. Add the return of Emmanuel Adebayor to the side and it allows AVB an easy option to rest Jermain Defoe and use both Dempsey and Sigurdsson deeper and Adebayor as the main striker and either play Ade and Defoe with one of the others wide or to start with Ade on the bench and retain both Clint and Gylfi against Everton. we are hardly down to the bare bones.
Perhaps we will see AVB look to someone like Iago Falque or Townsend against Panathinaikos and allow for example Dempsey and Lennon a games rest to keep them fresh for Everton, which to me is a far more important game and I would be quite happy to see some fresh legs on Sunday. What we don't want though is to see too many squad players on Thursday and end up getting knocked out of he Europa league, however rubbish the competition is. Would we be better to rest Sandro or continue to nurse Dembele over one of the attacking players and keep things as strong as we possibly can.
To be honest, the loss of Michael Dawson could actually be a bigger loss in some ways to that of Bale. Considering that we are talking about a player that has hardly kicked a ball for us in anger over one of our unquestioned superstars, it might seem a stupid statement, but is there a logic to starting with Jake Livermore or Tom Huddlestone in the centre of defence, as we only have three fit centre halves in Caulker, Gallas and Vertonghen? Of course one of those has predominantly played at left back and another struggles to play two games in a week, are we taking a big risk in playing all or at least two of them on Thursday? Could there be a sense in picking Walker, Caulker/Gallas, Hudd/Livermore and Naughton? It seems rather cautious or at risk of drastically weakening our side, but would it be strong enough to overcome the Greeks, whilst saving key players for a vital game at Everton?..