Has he simply outgrown Tottenham?
Former Tottenham Hotspur team-mate Luka Modric has urged Gareth Bale to join him at Real Madrid, believing he would make the perfect counterpart to Cristiano Ronaldo on the opposite flank.
In the Premier League, the Welsh winger has been in hot form again this year, with six goals already to his name as well as an assist. Although just 23-years-old, Bale has been improving year upon year, and the suggestion from Modric that he should move to a bigger club sparks an interesting debate. Has Gareth Bale simply outgrown Tottenham – a team that currently plays in the Europa league, and certainly have strong competition to finishing fourth? A dive into the stats should help clear things up.
Bale is certainly a Champions League player, he proved that with his exceptional display against Inter Milan a few years ago, where he ran riot on the left flank against Maicon – an experienced defender who is a World Cup winner. Furthermore, he has often become talismanic at times for Spurs. For example, it is no coincidence that the Welshman was the only player capable of making a difference for Tottenham after Adebayor’s sending off during the North London derby. His second half goal, in which he penetrated the Arsenal half with his direct pace and dribbling, before producing a tidy and accurate finish into the bottom corner with his weaker foot is in many ways a trademark goal for Bale.
It seems a long time ago since Bale arrived at White Hart Lane from Southampton for £5million, at which time he was considered to be a left-back as opposed to a left-winger. He was best known for his free-kicks, which is another asset that the 23-year-old has in his locker. Since then his turn of pace and his dribbling control has greatly improved, and along with his technical ability has made him a serious goal threat. The Cardiff-born winger has a shot accuracy of 52%, which is on par with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Demba Ba, Michu, Robin van Persie and team-mate Jermain Defoe. But furthermore, that is hardly the only part of Bale’s game.
He is also the seventh best crosser in the league, with a success rate of 20% – which sounds low, but is comparably quite high – despite the fact he has spent much of the season with mainly Jermain Defoe to aim at, and considering he has attempted over 100 crosses already in just fifteen games. It is a better return than any of the Chelsea attackers, and is mainly overshadowed by full-backs and central midfielders who often have more space to cross from. In total, Bale has created 32 scoring chances this season, the tenth best in the league.
Back to Bale’s defensive roots – he should not only be considered an attacker. Unlike many of his other counterparts, the Welshman can tackle and anticipate the game well while his team is defending, and then has enough speed and acceleration to quickly advance on the break, or join the attack from a more defensive position. He has made twenty interceptions this season, with a tackle success rate of 68%, and is statistically much better in the air than the majority of Premier League wingers.
It would be wrong to suggest that the Tottenham man doesn’t come with faults. His incessant diving has agitated fans and referees, and despite being incredibly athletic, he often comes across weak and lacking in passion when it comes to stern challenges. Similarly, his passing is questionable at times, with a 68% passing completion rate in the final third, and 78% completion rate for passing overall – not the best for an attacking midfielder. He is also often inconsistent, sometimes with a dribbling success rate of 50% or more, but in other games failing to gallop past a single opponent and his work-rate off the ball is also sometimes lacking.
Perhaps suggesting he has outgrown Tottenham is somewhat harsh on a club who performed well last season and are currently lying in fourth place. But Bale is an important aspect of that team, despite his young age, and cannot drive the team on by himself. My main argument is quite simple – Gareth Bale’s abilities are rarely limited by his opposition, proved by the fact he has scored against Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool this season. His pace, skill and technique make him a constant danger to any defence, and he has the ability to score goals as well as create chances from either out wide or the middle. Furthermore, he can contribute defensively, although that side of his game has somewhat diminished as he takes on greater attacking responsibility.
Bale is improving year on year, and considering he already has six goals to his name, will no doubt beat his total last season of ten, but has some way to go before matching his assists tally of eleven. I do believe however, Bale’s departure from White Hart Lane is not a matter of if but when, and is likely to happen sooner or later. I’ve always viewed him as a Manchester United player, but should the Spanish giants come calling, it is hard to imagine the young Welshman will be able to resist.