The love bearing Gareth Bale will be one of Europe’s hottest prospects over the forthcoming summer of transfers. Bale’s Tottenham exploits have seen him fill the gossip inches in many a tabloid over the previous 2 seasons and get ready to see his name continually with your daily English Breakfast. But for Football for the Day, the Welsh national has under delivered to the Yids of North London and England’s declining managerial patriarch in Harry Redknapp.
Make no mistake, Bale is one of England’s most dominant wide players, possessing the skill and speed to ghost past players with apparent nonchalance. In that taxi for Maicon game, on an extraordinary Italian evening, Gareth forged his reputation as a genuine top liner in the Premier League. Indeed, 2010/11 was a year of brilliance with the resurgent Spurs left edge being front and centre.
But quickly, defenders have leant from Maicon’s ill-fated and expensive cab ride, exposing Bale as something of a one-trick pony. Put simply, Bale has a right foot more akin to an underage park footballer, or worse. It is remarkable that his other sublime assets have masked this flaw from pundits across England, who still earn their wages by linking him to either or both of the two Spanish Champions League semi-finalists. For Barcelona, a club with an academy, that lists at the core of its footballing philosophy, the ability to play proficiently with either foot, signing Bale would be like City moving for Bruce Djite. And you don’t know who that is?
The frenzy around the Prem’s new poster boy began with the inflammatory profligacy of the English Press who drooled and salivated over their newest muse. Brian Flynn, the Welsh caretaker manager, did little to quell the swelling blaze, rather he poured a 100 litre bucket of rhetorical fuel all over Bale with comments that the press translated through their transient linguistic machine as: Bale > Messi. this really did happen. Gareth did himself few favours on the pitch with a scintillating period that drew comparisons (appropriately) with CR7 among others:
Bale v Ronaldo First 99 Premier League Appearances:
Chances created 175
Chances created 138
The pertinacious Bale, however, seems to have lost his way somewhat, confirming FFTD’s view that the initials GB belong rungs below CR7, LM et al – a Spurs player, but nothing more. (Oh God). There are two points to be made around the prior comparison: 1. Ronaldo was younger, less experienced and a foreigner. 2. After his opening 99, the Portuguese winger veritably exploded into everything that he represents today. For Bale, who now has 102 appearances in the league, his last 14 outings have produced blanks in front of goal. More perceptible to the naked eye than through the stats, the Tottenham sweetheart is regressing; and rapidly. But stats ahoy.
As an apparent response to the defensive ploy of showing Bale the inside route towards goal (something others have argued is curtailing his dominant weaponry), Redknapp has deployed Bale on the right and even on occasion centrally over recent months. This has bemused disgruntled Tottenham fans who have seen their side slip from title contenders to abject disorganisation. In the win over Bolton, Yiddos around the planet applauded the performance of Bale on the left and Lennon on the right – citing pace and width as the key blueprint to renew their early season success. But in truth, it was just Bolton, who’s back four of Ricketts, Boyata, Wheater and Ream couldn’t contain Martin Tyler’s grandma, who apparently has a keen eye for goal. Bolton’s frail last line has kept 5 clean sheets this campaign, conceding 75 at more than 2 a game. But I’m sure it was merely Bale and his return to the left.
The most telling criticism we’ll level at Bale is his failure to perform on the big occasion. Destroying Billy Jones or Alan Hutton is one thing, but Bale has struggled against more adept defenders from the bigger sides. If he really is the attacking force whose potency has been regarded as the best in Europe by the terraces of White Heart Lane, then Tottenham’s number 3 should be leading the side’s quest towards a legitimate title challenge – something that only just alluded them on this occasion. On the contrary, Bale’s goals have come against: Wigan (three), QPR (two), Fulham, Bolton, Norwich (two) and Man City; hardly the most illustrious list. Admittedly, Bale’s strike against City was simply class, but it came during a disappointing individual display, bereft of the form of previous months, and certainly not the outing of Europe’s hottest property. In that showing, we scored Richards in a TKO, matching Bale for pace and clearly outmuscling him in the air and at the contest.
Granted, goals are not the leading indicator for a midfielder, even one with a penchant skewed towards attack. Unfortunately, for Bale and his prospective suitors, his assist tally paints a similar picture: Fulham, Aston Villa (two), West Brom (two), Bolton (three), Chelsea, Wolves, Arsenal, Stoke, Swansea and Blackburn. In other words, of his impressive 14 assists, only 2 have come against top ten opposition. Amplifying this, of his 18 games against sides in the top half (obviously excluding Spurs themselves), he has provided just the two assists, or an assist every 810 minutes. If you’re a Spurs fan and really clutching at straws, you may point to his absence from the United game in March, but according to our analysis, he would have had only minimal impact.
Beyond the absolute figures of assists and goals, on a per minute consideration, G. Bale still struggles to compete with his more advanced peers:
Remember, once more, that Bale is certainly an adroit attacker, but to warrant the big money that seems to gravitate in his direction, a table like the one above should be presided upon by our main man. Instead, Bale’s assists per game is only superior to the much maligned Theo Walcott and the fairly mediocre Stephan Sessegnon. His minutes per chance created is also worryingly poor – placing him well into the bottom half.
Amalgamating the analysis, Bale has on average, under performed his elite wide-ranging contemporaries, and has amplified his numbers to remain vaguely comparable with strong performances against lesser opponents.
If a bid in excess of 40 million big ones is being lined up by the likes of City and Madrid, then Tottenham should cash in right away and head to Tesco’s or Vertonghen or whatever else takes Mr Levy’s fancy. There is no doubting that Gareth Bale is a special talent, possessing blistering pace and a lethal left foot. However, these are only two exemplary components within a footballing package that seems lacking in other key elements. The inevitable record breaking monetary move that is brewing on the horizon will bemuse those interested in the numbers…