No central reservations about Bale

Posted by Dan Fitch

In the space of a couple of weeks, Gareth Bale has single-handedly won points for Spurs that were going to be lost against Norwich, West Brom and Newcastle. In between, he even found time to single-handedly win a game for Wales.

This is more than a good run of goal-scoring form. It's also bigger than the fact that all of the goals have been pretty spectacular.

No, what has been really impressive is that in each of his past three Spurs games, you could almost pinpoint the moment Bale decided to step up a gear in a singular effort to save the day.

His goals felt like acts of will -- as if he looked up at the clock and actually thought, “I suppose I’d better score now”, and then went ahead and did it.

There are very few players I've watched at Spurs who have had that sort of quality, who could win games on their own.

Paul Gascoigne comes to mind. In his last season at Tottenham, Gazza won countless games with moments of solo brilliance. In fact, from the fourth round onward, Gascoigne produced at least one such moment in every round of the FA Cup, to take Tottenham to the 1991 final.

We all know what happened to Gascoigne after his knee injury in the final and I think that we can say that we also know that the same thing won’t happen to Bale. That season was the peak of Gascoigne’s career. He was roughly the same age as Bale is now (23), yet his career and life began to slide in a downward spiral from that moment on.

Bale is only going to go in the other direction. He's going to get better, which on the evidence of that performance against Newcastle is a very frightening prospect indeed.

After that game, Andre Villas-Boas said Bale was as important to Spurs as Lionel Messi is to Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo is to Real Madrid. Cynics might scoff, but relatively speaking, it’s a fair comparison.

Like Bale, Messi and Ronaldo started their careers as wide players. As their influence on the game grew, Messi and Ronaldo found themselves being employed in more central areas.

Now Bale looks set to make the same journey. In fact, it’s a slightly longer one than Messi and Ronaldo had to make, as Bale began as a left back and first had to make the transition from defence to midfield.

Bale is great on the left, so great every team puts two men on him and eventually he finds himself drifting to find some space.

I've never been a huge fan of Bale playing on the right, as he's so one-footed that he can only go in one direction effectively. A central role makes more sense and gives Bale more opportunities in front of goal.

It's quite logical and simple when you think about it. Why wouldn’t you play your best player in the position where he will see the most of the ball?

There has often been a debate among Spurs fans as to whether Bale would one day become a striker. He has certainly got all the qualities that a modern striker needs these days, but a deeper, number-10 role might suit him better.

From there, Bale has more opportunities to pick up the ball and run at the defence. Nothing frightens defenders more than someone who can run at them with the ball at pace.

The problem this switch creates of course, is who should replace Bale on the left. Clint Dempsey is well used to playing in such a role, where he can cut in on goal with his right foot.

From what I’ve seen of Lewis Holtby, I’d back him to make a decent fist of it, too. He’s genuinely two-footed and seems adaptable enough to play anywhere across the midfield.

Sometimes you have to weaken one area of the team to strengthen another. Bale is playing so well right now that he’s central to all that Tottenham do and as such, I’ve no reservations about him playing there.

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