The 'One-Man Team' - does it really exist?

The 'One-Man Team' - does it really exist?



United have Van Persie, City have Aguero, Liverpool have Suarez and Spurs of course have Bale.
Each Premier League squad has its key player, but does their ability to perform to a high standard depend on their talisman’s presence on the team-sheet?

The obvious team to have a look at here is undoubtedly Tottenham Hotspur. Star man Gareth Bale almost single-handedly helped them finish 5th in the Premier League, scoring 21 goals and laying on four assists. This has led football fans all over the country to speculate on the future of the young Welsh star, and as a result labelling Tottenham as a ‘one-man team’.

They have a point when you consider that Bale’s 21 goals have won a total of 24 points for Tottenham, meaning without them they would be on 46 points; merely scraping into the top ten. However, when you peer closer into Bale’s statistics for the season- his supposed influence doesn’t quite add up. He may be the clubs top scorer by a country mile, but he has a conversion rate of just 16%, scoring a goal every 139 minutes.

In addition, creating 75 chances for his team is vastly inferior to the likes of Leighton Baines, who managed to muster 116. It is all well and good asking ‘where would they be without him’, but did we not all ask the same of Arsenal after the departures of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Van Persie? Suddenly the argument of a one-man team does not appear so compelling: especially when we examine the endeavours of Bale’s teammates. The one that stands out for me is  Mousa Dembele.

While he doesn’t score nearly as many goals, it appears to be his passing and creativity that plays a crucial part in the team. With a 91% pass completion rate, 52 chances created in open play (more than Bale) and almost as many successful dribbles, you could argue that Dembele’s presence in the team is equally important; and possibly more significant in making the team tick. As a big Tottenham fan, I have seen a very noticeable hole left in the team when Dembele does not feature; which results in a huge lack of creative spark. Bale might get the goals, and goals change games, but without initiation and vision, you don’t get in a position where you can score goals. Even Gareth himself admits the targets he reached this season were down to the help of his teammates. If Bale played for QPR last season, they would not have finished 5th.

Another notable ‘talisman’ in the Premier League this season has of course been Manchester United striker Robin van Persie. The Dutchman bagged 26 goals on his way to helping United secure their 20th league title, and many pundits and managers alike have claimed that the Red Devils would not have done it without him. But would they have done it without Rooney? His 12 goals and seven assists played its part in United’s title bid, while his passing, over 1000 accurate passes (78% completion) was also a decisive factor.

In truth, almost every team has a ‘key player’ who will win points for the team on his own at times, but a team consists of 11 players whom all contribute in some way. When a big player leaves a team, another will step up in his place. Because the influence of this ‘talisman’ is projected on such a big scale, the ‘unsung’ players, also instrumental to the team’, are forgotten about. Michael Carrick is a great example of this. His ball-winning, ground-covering and possession stats are very impressive, but unfortunately, goals and assists are all that get noticed in football. So-called ‘one man team’ players like Bale and Suarez may leave their respective clubs in the near future, but the club is always bigger than the player, and no one player can individually influence the fortunes or misfortunes of that club. Otherwise, what’s the point in having 11 men on the field?