Apologies for the corny title, all the hyperbole about Gareth Bale over the last few weeks in press is obviously having an effect on me. Along with the over excitement, there has also been many Bale related stats that have been mentioned in the press and on twitter at various points, including the following;
- “Gareth Bale has scored 10 goals in his last 12 Premier League appearances”
- “Gareth Bale is 1st for PL shots on target this season (51)”
- “No player has scored more Premier League goals in 2013 than Gareth Bale”
- “Gareth Bale has scored each of Tottenham’s last five PL goals”
- “Gareth Bale: Has now scored Tottenham’s last 6 goals in all competitions”, and
- “Gareth Bale has been directly involved in 80% of Spurs’ goals in all competitions so far in 2013 (9 goals & 3 assists)”
So despite the hyperbole, it’s fair to say Bale is now in the best form of his career. Looking at his output in the League, he has scored 15 goals in 11 games so far, of those 11 games, 6 were won by a single goal, 2 of which he scored 2 goals in, and one other was a draw, so those goals have been very important. Whilst it would be too simple to say that he has won them 15 points, it’s clear that he is playing a significant role, especially when you consider that he has had 22% of their shots, 29% of their shots on target, and 34% of their goals.
A look at Tottenham’s conversion rates also shows Bale’s outperformance compared to the rest of the squad. We can also see that the rest of the team are not only performing worse than the average of the top 4 teams last season, but also worse than the average of all the teams last season (I have used last season as it’s a complete season with all teams having played each other, and with Tottenham in the top 4, comparing to this season’s top 4 would be a bit circular with them in it).
Conversion rates exclude own goals. Shooting Accuracy excludes blocked shots. Chance = A shot on or off target, excluding blocked shots. CCC = Clear Cut Chance
However, there is nothing wrong with relying on one player if that player is an outstanding attacking talent, as it could be foolhardy not to. Suarez has taken up that role at Liverpool for most of this season, van Persie also did at Arsenal last season, and despite the quality of players throughout their squads, it can be argued that both Barcelona and Real Madrid rely on Messi and Ronaldo from a goal scoring perspective.
What should be of greater concern for Tottenham is the quality of the chances they have created and the narrow margins in which they have recently been winning. Positively, their shooting accuracy is the 2nd highest in the league this season, behind only Manchester United, and due to also having the 2nd highest shots per game, they have actually fired more shots on target this season than any other team. But digging deeper, we also see that they are the team with the highest proportion of shots taken from outside of the area this season at 55%. Tottenham like to break quickly using their pace and are one of the best counter attacking teams in the league, and the number of shots taken from outside the area could be as a consequence of teams sitting back, denying them the space to break into, and they are then lacking the creativity to get in behind the lines. The fact that when playing at home they are taking 60% of shots from outside at the box, and they have scored 7 more goals away from home than they have at home backs up this point of view. Other indications that they are creating poor quality shooting opportunities are that they rank 2nd lowest in terms of Clean Cut Chances as a proportion of total chances. Consequently they only rank 7th in terms of the number of clear-cut chances per game.
However despite the number of more difficult chances they attempt, they are relatively good at them. Prior to the last round of games, they had the highest shooting accuracy in the league for shots from outside the area, although it probably helps that Bale is actually as accurate from outside the area as he is from inside, as shown in this blog from Squawka. In terms of conversion of those attempts from outside the area, they have scored the most in the league with 11, although this is a product of taking much more shots than anyone else. When you look at their conversion rate of shots from outside of the area it is only 4%, however this is still relatively good, when you take free kicks out of the equation, they score 1 goal for every 27.4 shots from outside the area, which compares favourably to the rate of 1 to 33 for all shots from outside the area since the beginning of last season as calculated by the Differentgame’s SPAM analysis. Tottenham are also slightly above average this season in terms of the conversion of chances that are not clear-cut, with a rate of 8.1%, which ranks 6th in the league.
On the face of it, Tottenham are carrying some good form, being unbeaten in 11 league games. However that run included 7 of the bottom 9 teams, and the last 6 games in the League has seen them outscored by 11 other teams and have a positive goal difference of only 3. They have also left getting their results until late in the game recently. In their last 8 games in all competitions, they have scored 4 goals to win or equalise until the 90th minute or later, with a further 2 goals getting results coming after the 75th minute. Whilst this may be a sign of increasing mental fortitude and give them the confidence that they can always get a result, there is a risk that if they continue to leave themselves chasing the game into the closing stages, that the bounce of the ball does not go their way.
Obviously football is about defence as well as attack, and Tottenham’s defence is clearly playing very well having conceded the fewest goals in the league in those last 11 league games and conceded fewer shots than any other team so far this season. But they are about to start their most difficult run of games this season, facing 6 of the top 9 in their next 7 games, and whilst the teams they are playing should play a more expansive style of football, possibly giving Tottenham more space to play their natural game, they may need Bale to continue his rich vein of form if they are to get the wins needed to stay in the top 4.
Data taken from eplindex, whoscored, & squawka