Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale are both players who played for Southampton before joining a ‘bigger’ club. They are also, perhaps, players who for a while, we’ve wanted to see more of. Criticism is often levelled at Walcott for a bad decision-making process. There are always those frustrating moments in his game when he’s left his marker for dead and chooses to pass instead of shoot or vice versa. Bale despite being labelled one of the brightest young talents currently in the game, and certainly being one of the best left-side players in the game has on many occasions failed to live up to his billing.
I would suggest that in Bale’s case this is because of a misunderstanding of the kind of player he is. He had a decent first season for Spurs, where his free-kicks in particular caused defences a lot of problems. Even so, who can forget that Bale went through 25 Premier League games before recording his first Spurs win? His sophomore season for Tottenham wasn’t a great success either, as he struggled to adapt to his role as a Left Back. It wasn’t until Harry Redknapp had the confidence to use Bale higher up the pitch that Bale began to excite fans once more.
The trouble with Bale is that he’s not as flashy or tricky as a number of other high profile players and as a result he has to do something really special to get noticed (like score a hat-trick at the San Siro). Bale is perhaps best defined as a player by his inexhaustible engine, his fast and direct running and a great work ethic. Walcott has up until now been defined by his pace. But now the signs are there that these players are willing to push on an become the world-class players that they seem destined to be. All it takes is a little consistency.
As mentioned before, Bale made the media sit up and listen with his hat-trick at the San Siro. Nobody expects this week in and week out, but Bale’s energy and determination will be vital if Spurs are to maintain their challenge for a top four position this season. He has, through hard work, become a very important player for them and if he keeps turning out such vital and charismatic performances, then it’s likely he’ll earn his label as the best left-sided player in the Premiership.
Walcott, despite only just returning from a six-week layoff, seems to be enjoying himself. He scored a double last night in Arsenal’s Carling Cup clash with Newcastle and has an amazing 6 goals in 6 appearances for his club this season. After the game Wenger had this to say regarding Theo’s development: “Theo Walcott is 21 years old – that’s the age where other players start to play. He is a very young boy and he is a very intelligent player and that’s why I believe he will continue to develop normally.”
Develop normally? Despite difficult starts to their top-flight careers, Walcott and Bale are currently developing extremely well. they are both in form and justifying the hype previously heaped upon them. These are no longer ‘prospects’ or players of the future, they are players to be aware of and for defences to fear in the here-and-now.