After a frustrating start to 2010, it has turned out to be a good week so far for Tottenham. With a solid if unspectacular win over Fulham in the bag, there has been the added bonus of seeing their closest rivals drop points. With Liverpool and Aston Villa only managing draws, the advantage was with Spurs.
The match against the Cottagers was very much an exercise in going back to basics. Harry Redknapp’s side were never at their devastating best but did the simple things well. Fulham rarely threatened Gomes’ goal after a solid defensive display and Wilson Palacios dominated midfield proceedings. It was a measure of how comfortable Spurs were that Fulham were rarely able to test the Brazilian goalkeeper who was carrying an arm injury for most of the game. If Roy Hodgson’s side had been able to get in to more dangerous areas of the pitch then they would surely have rained a few shots at the home goal to see how immobilised Gomes was by his wounds. At one stage, it looked like Ben Alnwick would have to come on for his league bow but Gomes was able to enjoy a quiet evening as his team kept the ball upfield.
David Bentley made a surprise appearance, drafted in at the eleventh hour when Niko Kranjcar went down with sickness. It was a mixed showing by the former Blackburn star. His goal will give him a boost but it was a lucky deflection off Bjorn Helge Riise in the Fulham wall that took it past Mark Schwarzer, and the Aussie keeper should have done better with his cross that lead to the first goal as well. Too often, Bentley tried to overcomplicate things, a sign of a player who is desperate to impress but lacks confidence. Little flicks can look attractive when they come off but only serve to frustrate those expecting a performance from Bentley when they fall short of their intended target. At 25-years-old, it is getting to the point where he is too old to be considered a bright prospect and has to start showing some substance on a regular basis. Chances will be few and far between at Tottenham due to his profligacy in previous periods in the team and it was important that Bentley showed what he was about when this unexpected opportunity came along.
He was by no means awful and a goal is still a goal however it finds the net. Yet it was the performance of a player who looks out of sorts and something needs to change soon. Bentley has been hampered since he was a young player with a certain pressure to follow in the footsteps of David Beckham. Some of the pressure has been self-inflicted, with Bentley clearly enjoying a fashion conscious and flash lifestyle. From the haircuts to the clothes, his priorities have not always been in order. Having a similar name and playing in the same position as the former England captain can not have helped and offer up an easy comparison, but few can doubt that Bentley will have aspirations to follow Becks on to England’s right flank permanently. His talent has always been clear, particularly once he moved on from Arsenal to Blackburn having previously been on loan at Norwich in the Premier League. In a Rovers shirt, he hit a hat-trick against Manchester United and was in excellent form when Tottenham came calling. However, it has never happened for him since his move back to North London. Whether it is his surroundings that have caused problems or just a simple loss of focus, it is time for him to get his career back on track. Maybe it will be best for all parties involved if that happens elsewhere.
Redknapp, the man whose opinion counts the most, sounded pleased after the game with Bentley’s showing but one wonders if his public voice completely mirrors his private thoughts. It is important for the player to hear some positive words after his return to the side and there were indeed signs of the quality player within Bentley that will have given his manager hope. Are signs of quality enough? When given a chance, Bentley needed to go out and have the game of his life, especially with Aaron Lennon still unfit. The opportunity was there for him to stake a claim for the shirt and make Lennon have to work hard to reclaim his place. What Bentley provided was a reasonable showing, but nothing more. Fulham were missing players, including their regular left-back, and were there for the taking but instead everything was just comfortably routine.