The form of Leighton Baines has not gone unnoticed, with Manchester United again linked with a possible transfer in January. Despite quashing these rumours, Baines has admitted that not playing in Europe is hampering his chances of establishing himself as an England regular, with Hodgson favouring the more experienced Ashley Cole at left-back.
Baines, however, offers a completely different dimension. As the first player out of the top five leagues in Europe to create 50 chances this season (Luke O’Farrell), the creativity of the left-back cannot be doubted. With similar tendencies to the much sought-after, Gareth Bale, could Baines be the answer to the well-documented left-midfield problems at England? Gareth Bale has excelled since converting from left-back to an advanced left-wing position, being compared to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and labelled, “The New Ryan Giggs”. He is yet another “Welsh Wizard” that England fans envy. But is Leighton Baines capable of following suit? The stats comparison between Leighton Baines and Gareth Bale in the final third certainly suggests so.
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Despite playing at left-back, Baines (340) has attempted more final third passes than Bale (165) and has a higher completion rate of 76%. This reflects the attack-minded mentality of the left-back who has the ability to carry the ball forward from deep positions and force his side up the pitch. Baines has a higher successful dribble completion rate than Bale. It must be noted however, that this could be due to Baines carrying the ball from deeper positions, where he is likely to be under less pressure, as opposed to Bale, who plays further up the pitch.
We can see that Baines is also superior with his final pass, boasting more accuracy with his crosses and creating a chance every 25 minutes, as opposed to every 38 minutes in the case of Bale. More noticeably, Baines has created a clear-cut chance every 270 minutes, whereas Bale has created a clear-cut chance every 1, 220 minutes. Playing in a more advanced role, it is no surprise that Bale (48) has had more shots than Baines (9), and has 4 more goals to his name.
The stats show that Leighton Baines certainly has the potential to emulate the £80 million-rated, Gareth Bale, in a more advanced left-wing role. With the performances of Ashley Young and Adam Johnson not turning many heads, Baines in a more advanced role could be an option for England. Priced at around £15 million, Baines – 27 – could bolster the left-back options, as well as being an affordable replacement for the aging Ryan Giggs and the seemingly outgoing Nani at Manchester United.