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Are Spurs too reliant on Gareth Bale?

bale gareth

Gareth Bale won last season’s PFA Player of the Year, PFA Young Player of the Year, and Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year awards following a superb individual campaign – but he was unable to lead Tottenham into the Champions League.

Bale’s evolution from a pure, pacy winger into an all-round attacking threat has been remarkable, and reminiscent of Cristiano Ronaldo at Man United: the Welshman has become increasingly prolific, scoring all types of goals, from long-distance free-kicks to close-range headers. Twenty-one goals from 33 matches last season is a fantastic tally for a player not considered a true striker, especially as none were penalties.

Bale’s role at Tottenham is particularly all-encompassing – not only was he Spurs’ most prolific scorer last season, he was also their most frequent creator of chances. His performance in the 3-2 victory over West Ham (screen one) told the story – he grabbed the headlines with two stunning goals, including a last-minute winner into the top corner from 30 yards – but more subtly, he also created six chances, including four from corners.

That was Bale at his best – an incredibly dangerous goalscoring threat, but also a team player. On other occasions, he has appeared more selfish – in the 2-1 home victory over Lyon, for example, he attempted more shots than he completed passes in the final third of the pitch, and Spurs’ attacking play was based entirely around him. Both his goals were from free-kicks – in open play, Spurs suffered due to his single- mindedness.

In fairness, Bale was often surrounded with players lacking in goalscoring form – in the Lyon match, Spurs’ other attacking players were Mousa Dembele, Aaron Lennon, Clint Dempsey and Emmanuel Adebayor, who all scored fewer goals last season than Andre Villas-Boas would have  anticipated. If surrounded by promising goalscoring options, Bale would probably have passed more frequently.

Strangely, Spurs attempted more shots last season when Bale wasn’t playing – they averaged 24.2 attempts without him, compared to only 17.9 when he started, although their goals-per-game rate was almost identical. That suggests Spurs were shooting from unpromising situations, and desperately trying to replicate the Welshman’s threat from range, without having the capability to convert.

The home match against Swansea, when Bale was absent, proved the problem – 29 shots, many of which were wayward, and only one goal (screen two). Clearly, Tottenham are too reliant upon Bale – but they’re best when he’s creating and shooting.

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