Tottenham Hotspur were relieved last night by the news that Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon will both be back in training within two weeks after they had scans on the ankle and knee injuries sustained on Thursday.
Spurs, though, will need to find a way to beat Everton tomorrow, and Basel in Switzerland on Thursday without their best player and inspiration. Bale is likely to miss those two games but now has a chance of returning to face Manchester City two weeks tomorrow, on 21 April.
The next few games, then, will give some of Spurs’ other attackers the chance to make themselves useful. Given Bale’s brilliance all year, there has almost been less space for new signings Gylfi Sigurdsson, Clint Dempsey and Lewis Holtby to make an impression for Spurs.
Dempsey started well but has faded, Sigurdsson began slowly but has improved while Holtby has, understandably, not fully settled since arriving in January from Schalke. But all three are under some pressure to produce now, with Spurs facing some of their most important games of the season without their best player.
Spurs will need to be at their best to pick through one of the best defences in the league when Everton come to White Hart Lane. With Lennon also ruled out with a knee injury, the likelihood is Sigurdsson, Dempsey and Holtby will all start behind Emmanuel Adebayor in manager Andre Villas-Boas’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.
Mousa Dembélé, who will also have to provide more spark and invention tomorrow and in Basel, admitted that Spurs’ other midfielders will have to fill in for Bale’s absence. “Those two players are some of the best,” Dembélé said of Bale and Lennon. “But we have other good players as well, I think we have good players on the bench as well and they can play very well. With or without them we can win. Gareth has been very important for us, but other players have to step up now.”
Sigurdsson has been the best of those three, the Icelander proving increasingly influential with his intelligent prompting and deft movements from the left wing.
He led the comeback in the 3-2 win at West Ham United, scoring a goal, before setting one up in the 2-1 defeat of Arsenal and also scoring in the home games against Internazionale and Basel on Thursday.
The midfielder, 23, agrees there is pressure on others to produce now. “Of course, when someone gets injured someone has to step up and fill his place,” he said. “Someone needs to come in and do well.”
Sigurdsson’s and Holtby’s scheming should be complemented by the more dynamic and ruthless Dempsey. The American has not started since 14 February, but he scored five goals in six appearances in January and rediscovering that form would be precious for Spurs, especially given their worries up front.
Dembélé, who like Dempsey joined from Fulham last summer, is confident in his team-mate. “I remember from my time at Fulham he was very important so I know what he can do as well,” he said. “He can score important goals as well.”