Football

Gareth Bale's Resurgence Is Really Good News For Matt Doherty

Gareth Bale's Resurgence Is Really Good News For Matt Doherty

Matt Doherty has not thrived since his move to Spurs last summer.

Having been the first choice right back at the start of the campaign, a mixture of injury, illness, and lack of form saw him drop behind Serge Aurier.

Opportunities were hard to come by for the Irishman for large stretches of the season. He made only three Premier League starts between mid-November and the end of February, one of which came at left back.

Doherty seemed like something of a square peg in a round hole in a Jose Mourinho team, with his attacking abilities constrained by his manager's defensive philosophy.

It is certainly still the case that the former Wolves player will continue to have to adapt over the coming months, but there have been some signs in recent weeks that he is starting to find his feet in North London.

He has performed very well in each of his last four starts for Spurs, registering three assists. He has been a vital cog in the team's attack, producing the type of marauding runs down the right flank that have become trademark during his time in the Premier League.

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It is perhaps no coincidence that Doherty's resurgence has coincided with Gareth Bale finally getting his place in the Tottenham team.

The Welsh winger has been on fire over the last couple of weeks, scoring four goals in his last three outings.

Bale's tendency to cut in from the right wing onto his favoured left football leaves plenty of room for Doherty to operate out wide, something that had far too often not been the case on other occasions this season. The likes of Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn are naturally right footed, meaning they often clogged up the space that the Ireland international tends to thrive in.

The right side of the pitch certainly looks far more balanced with the current pairing, with the strengths of both players complimenting the other's well.

Speaking in the Spurs matchday programme ahead of the Palace game, a match where the two would put in arguably their performance as a duo to date, Doherty said he has been really enjoying the opportunity to play alongside Bale (h/t Football London):

Lately, me and Gareth have been playing together a little bit, whether it has been in cup games, Europe or wherever, and I feel we do link up well.

He goes inside, gets in the pockets, obviously, opposition players are scared to go near him because he is so good on the ball, and I'll do the running up the line if I have to.

Whether he slides me in, puts me out wide or I get the cross in, we seem to link up well and we just seem to have an understanding.

I know if I make a run, he has the vision and the weight of pass to slide me in - and it'll be perfect. So, I do really enjoy playing with him.

Doherty will now be hoping to hold onto that right back spot, something that can only be aided by Bale's presence in the team.

With Ireland's opening World Cup qualifiers taking place later this month, his timing could hardly be better. Seamus Coleman has been putting in some strong performances for Everton, leading many to call for his reintroduction to the team after being left out in favour of Doherty for much of last year.

Stephen Kenny will certainly have a big decision to make for the opening game against Serbia, something that could be made even more difficult if both players enter the game in fine form.

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Gary Connaughton

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