I have finally plucked up the courage to admit how wrong I was about this young welshman. Last year I said to myself that Gareth Bale was becoming too big for his boots, thinking that he was bigger than his club and trying to become a player I didn’t think he was or could in fact be.
In my opinion, until recently, Gareth Bale had given his most scintillating displays whilst being deployed as a left winger. He tore Inter Milan apart single handedly from this position and also proved that the ‘old fashioned wide midfielder’ still had a role to play in the modern game. His raw pace, deadly accurate crossing ability and natural engine ensured he tormented every single full back in the league, gaining a large amount of admirers in the process. I was in awe of his talents and even as an Arsenal fan I could not deny that Tottenham had unearthed a truly remarkable talent.
However, towards the end of last season especially, he began to frustrate me immensely. His desire to play on the right wing was understandable, as part of the modern game involves the swapping of wingers from time to time, to introduce new dynamics and pose new problems to your opposition. Yet, after a while with Bale, not only did this become a regular occurrence, but just after a few decent displays and spectacular goals that cutting in from this position allows, this manifested into a degree of arrogance, if not misplaced, leading to his newfound wish to be deployed centrally behind the striker. I should say that I have never doubted Gareth Bale’s ability, or his potential for success in this new role, it was simply the narcissistic nature of why it came about and his belief that he was better than everyone at the club that began to grind away at me. For one, Luka Modric was probably their most impressive player last season, but because of Bale’s need for attention Modric’s role perhaps goes unnoticed. Also, the level of inconsistency Bale showed in this new role not only highlighted his immature approach to the matter but also made me question why on earth he did not revert back to the position in which he enjoyed so much success and became idolised by many.
I have always hinted that the sign of a great player is an impeccable consistency coupled with the ability to win games for your team, whether through scoring goals or any other medium. Last season, I believe Bale was lacking these key attributes, at least when playing in a central position, and thus I started to doubt whether he could become that great player I thought he could be.
But, regrettably, as I hate to be proved wrong, this season Bale has managed to not only show me that he can win games for his team, and do so on a regular basis, but he has achieved all of this from the position that I put my neck out and said he shouldn’t play in. Great.
Gareth Bale has quite simply been keeping Tottenham in the race for a Champions League spot. Not only is this evident through the sheer amount of winning goals he has scored, but despite the fact most of these have been world class, goal-of-the-season-contending strikes, it is in fact Tottenham’s reliance on him to win that proves his importance, as well as the flourishing of his immense talent. In 32 Premier League games, Spurs have scored 55 goals, whilst Bale has scored 17 goals in 28 games, making him single handedly responsible for 31% of their goals despite not playing in every game. This in itself is worthy of attributing him with my coveted ‘match winning’ attribute but furthermore, in terms of points won, Bale has won Tottenham 10 points with goals scored either to win the game from a drawing position, or draw a game from a losing position, again extremely deserving of ‘match winning’ status as without these 10 points Tottenham would find themselves one point behind Liverpool in 7th place.
Bale has shown us this season that he has many more strings to his bow than a traditional left winger. His ability to score from almost any distance makes him a constant threat and by developing such an impossibly difficult free kick technique even fouling him does not mean this omnipresent threat he poses has been quelled. All of these new attributes beg the question whether he can indeed be the ‘left footed Ronaldo’ everyone has suggested, and in my opinion he can definitely try. He moves with all Ronaldo’s grace, even when at full throttle and his physique lends itself to a more direct style of play, of which he and Ronaldo have both used to devastating effect. Whether he will scale the heights that Cristiano Ronaldo has remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that he is beginning to show us he could indeed be that good.
So, people have rightly praised Gareth Bale this season, but despite the ever growing number of people joining the Bale bandwagon as it were, there are a few cynics that remain. However, the point of this article was to declare myself no longer one of them and I truly believe that Gareth Bale can be a world class footballer, whether that be in my preferred left wing position, or indeed where he finds himself now, behind the striker. But, as I said, wherever Bale finds himself playing on the pitch, and whoever for, we will be hearing a lot more about this Welshman, and if he can avoid persistent injuries, which have laid waste to many a fantastic player’s potential, then he might even rival the career of another very famous welshman, or in fact better it.