Exclusive: Spurs can hurt big boys now Bale’s gone, says Ardiles

TOTTENHAM are better equipped to challenge the Premier League’s big hitters now that Gareth Bale has left for Real Madrid, according to legendary midfielder Ossie Ardiles.

Spurs have dropped only three points so far this season and can move to the Premier League summit with a positive result against Chelsea in tomorrow’s top of the table clash at White Hart Lane.

Midfielder Christian Eriksen, a £11.5m acquisition from Ajax, has lit up the lillywhite half of north London during his first weeks at the club, but Ardiles believes record £30m signing Erik Lamela will prove to be manager Andre Villas-Boas’s best buy.

And Ardiles feels it is an exciting time to be around the club.

“Everybody is really happy with how things developed in the summer,” said the 61-year-old, who won the FA Cup and Uefa Cup with Spurs.

“When you sell a player of the stature of Gareth Bale he is not easy to replace. But it looks like we have been able to and, if anything, we are not anymore a one-man team. We are looking good.

“Eriksen has been most impressive of the new guys. He is our most influential player right now. But I have a lot of hope for Lamela.

“Lamela was the new [Lionel] Messi in Argentina, the No10, the new [Francesco] Totti at Roma, so he is very, very talented. Ultimately, he is going to be our best buy.

“He’s very skilful and quick. Bale was stronger, Lamela is more skilful. If the World Cup was tomorrow he would be playing in it at a very early age, so that tells you how good he is.”

Spurs’ fine start to the season has also been evident in the Europa League and Capital One Cup where they have won all four matches, scoring 15 goals and conceding none.

Ardiles is confident that good form can continue against Chelsea, but feels talk of a title challenge is premature.

“With the circumstances of new managers at Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs it takes time to adjust and the division is very open,” said Ardiles, speaking at the launch of Glenn Hoddle’s Zapstarz competition.

“Everything is open this season, so it will be much more level.

“Because of that I think we have a chance. I don’t think anybody wants to talk about a title challenge, just one game at a time.”