There are many questions facing Tottenham heading into the summer, as they try to get back to competing in the upper echelons of the Premier League. The main focus will be the appointment of their new manager, but there will also be a focus on keeping Harry Kane and Son Heung-min. One talking point that has gone under the radar has been the future of Gareth Bale. It was seen as coup when Spurs signed him on loan last summer, but he hasn’t had the impact that many thought he would have.
Under Jose Mourinho, he was frequently made a scapegoat. Bale was given limited minutes and he was often brought on when matches were already lost. If the Portuguese manager had remained in situ, it is unlikely that Bale would have returned to North London next season. Following the managerial sacking, the Welsh international has a great chance to use the rest of this season to show how important he can be for Spurs.
It hasn’t taken long for him to show his quality. Although he was left out of the starting eleven against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final, he has now scored four goals in two league matches under Ryan Mason. Bale now has nine goals and two assists in just 727 minutes, which means he averages a goal involvement every 66.1 minutes. It is a remarkable record and one that shows how effective he still is in the final third.
According to Understat, Bale has underlying numbers that are comparable to Harry Kane. The 31-year-old averages 0.51 expected goals (xG) and 0.18 expected assists (xA) per ninety minutes. This is lower than Kane, who averages 0.64 xG and 0.23 xA per ninety minutes. However, Bale carry a more direct threat than Son Heung-min, who many believe to be the second most important player at Tottenham. The South Korean averages 0.34 xG and 0.29 xA per ninety minutes.
This shows the quality of the Tottenham attacking options and it is a reminder why supporters were so angered by the negative approach of Jose Mourinho. Mason was quick to start with all three and Dele Alli, a player that was ostracised under the previous regime. It made for an exciting watch, with Spurs creating lots of chances and Bale was the standout performer. Against Sheffield United, he had six shots and could have scored more on another day.
This week, the Mail reported that Daniel Levy is expected to offer their new manager the chance to re-sign Bale for a second season-long loan. It is looking likely that it will be an easy win for any new appointment to approve that deal. The supporters have a great affection for the player that made his name in North London and this season will be seen as a missed opportunity.
The fans haven’t been in the ground to enjoy Bale’s return, while he wasn’t given the prominent role in the team that his quality deserves. His record of a goal involvement every 66.1 minutes is unlikely to be sustained over a long period, but it does underline how he has been underused by Tottenham.
This looks to be an easy win for the Tottenham hierarchy, as supporters will be desperate to keep Bale for another season. After the negative press they received for their role in the proposed Super League, Daniel Levy and the board need all the positivity they can get. If they get Bale at full flow for an entire season, it could go a long way to helping the club return to the Champions League.