Over the past few games, Gareth Bale has been tried in a number of positions by manager Harry Redknapp. He’s been seen on his preferred left-wing, running centrally behind the strikers and most noticeably (in a bad way…) on the right. In a world of inverted wingers, false nines and deep-lying playmakers, Bale is a throw back to a simpler, more direct way of playing.
Of my childhood memories being yelled at during boys’ Sunday League games, one of the more intelligent and less offensive things I was told was “Do the simple things well”. There’s nothing innately clever about the way Gareth Bale plays the game, he just does the simplest things very, very well. Beat your man, hit the by-line and get the ball to someone in the same colour shirt.
Against Swansea, Gareth Bale time and time again cut through the defence like a hot knife through butter. The surprise package of the season, promoted Swansea City have impressed other managers, players, pundits and fans with their patient possession based passing game. If Arsenal can be called Barca-lite, then surely Swansea, with their passing completion rate of 85% and with several players in the 90% region, can be considered the Budget-lona of the EPL. Results against far more expensively assembled squads such as Liverpool, Fulham, Manchester City and Aston Villa – and a home draw against Tottenham, have proved that Brendan Rogers’ team are no mugs at this level.
In the 3-1 away defeat to Tottenham though, the Swans became unstuck. 59.3% possession away from home is impressive against a top side, and Swansea also attempted 205 more passes more than Spurs – but 18 Swansea only attempted 6 shots as opposed to Tottenham’s 18 – three times as many. This was reflected in goals scored too.
Swansea were unable to convert their possession into anything tangible. Spurs had less of the ball, but made far more use of it. Swansea were quite simply unable to deal with the directness of Gareth Bale. He did the simple things very well.
A good illustration of Tottenham being more effective than Swansea can be seen by looking at the contributions of the left wingers during the game.
In comparison to Scott Sinclair, Swansea’s left winger, Bale had a similar share of the ball, but made far more use of it. Sinclair made more passes, and had a higher pass completion rate, in line with Swansea as a team in general – but over half of those passes went towards his own goal. Gareth Bale on the other hand only about 1 in 5 backwards – the vast majority of his passes were to his right, indicating his advanced position and proximity to the touch-line.
The attacking statistics are even more weighted towards Bale. Nine crosses compared to two for Bale, and Sinclair didn’t manage a single shot over the 90 minutes. Bale also created 4 goal scoring chances for teammates, in comparison to Sinclair’s 1. What’s also interesting is that Bale performed better defensively than Sinclair too – making more successful tackles and interceptions, which is surprising given Swansea’s full-press style when not in possession.
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) See Demo’s and videos about the Stats Centre & read about new additions to the stats centre.