Gareth Bale hit the 20-goal mark in the Premier League with his strike against Southampton, the first Spurs player to do so since Jurgen Klinsmann.
Our former wing-wonder has benefited from his switch to a central position this season, but his last three goals have come from being moved out to the right. If Aaron Lennon continues to struggle with injury for our remaining three crucial Premier League games, should we consider moving Gareth Bale out here?
Whether this has been for the full 90 or mid-match, Bale has profited from being moved out of the middle.
Our last three opponents have targeted him and packed the centre of the park in order to condense the space in which he has to operate. Gareth Bale is a much better player when he has the ball at his feet and can run at the opposition than he is with his back to goal.
Teams that have faced us have figured this out and are deploying additional bodies in the centre accordingly. This has meant that when Bale has been switched to the right, he has found much more space and can face-up to goal.
Gareth Bale against Man City
The match may have finished Spurs 3 Man City 1, but the sky blue half of Manchester were looking comfortable at half time. They were a goal up and controlling the game through their use of Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure. The pair sat in front of their back four to break up the flow of the match and limit the space Gareth Bale had.
In the first half, Bale saw plenty of the ball, but apart from a tame long-range shot, he was kept well away from goal.
In the second period, Andre Villas-Boas shook up our formation to play 4-3-3. He brought Lewis Holtby on to operate in the middle, switched Bale out to the right, whilst Clint Dempsey moved across to his preferred position on the left.
This automatically saw Gareth Bale get more space to work in now that he had escaped the attentions of Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure in the centre. Having not previously received a pass even near the City box, he was now getting the ball much closer to, and even inside, the area. He was able to fire three shots from cutting inside from his starting position on the right.
The move opened up Spurs’ attack, but also allowed us to open up the Citizen’s defence.
Gareth Bale got in behind Gael Clichy, as he crossed the ball for Clint Dempsey to equalise – the switch also benefited the American who was previously looking out of place on the right.
Then he streaked through on to Tom Huddlestone’s pass, as he got in-behind Clichy once more.
Gareth Bale against Wigan
Without a target man in Emmanuel Adebayor, Andre Villas-Boas continued with 4-3-3 a week later at the DW stadium. Gareth Bale and Clint Dempsey continued to flank the diminutive Jermain Defoe in the same front three that he finished the match with Man City.
Continuing on the right meant that the Welshman escaped the Wigan pair of McArthur and McCarthy who were playing in front of a re-jigged back four. After being in the starting line-up for much of the season, Roberto Martinez had used James McArthur from the bench since mid-march. Here he brought him back in to the starting line-up in order to crowd the central area where Bale, if he was playing as a number ten, should have operated.
The switch to the right allowed him to move away from this pairing and receive the ball facing up to goal, rather than with his back to it. Whilst he was getting the ball wide on the right in the midfield zone, he was cutting inside and able to fire shots across goal. His out-to-in movement, playing as an inverted forward, also allowed him to get up in to the box to receive the ball.
He may have scored from a fortunate deflection as he blocked goalkeeper Joel Robles kick, but Gareth Bale was also on hand to deflect the equaliser in off Emerson Boyce.
Gareth Bale against Southampton
At the weekend, Gareth Bale was restored to his central role as a number ten, but once again ran in to congestion in the middle of the park. Steven Davis and Jack Cork occupied this zone for the Saints, with Cork given the task of tracking him. This forced Bale out of the centre and towards the left flank with play heavily going down this side.
After 60 minutes and with Spurs requiring the points, Andre Villas-Boas brought on Emmanuel Adebayor and moved Gareth Bale out to the right. The switch meant that he now escaped the attentions of Cork, but could also isolate himself one-on-one with full back Luke Shaw.
That would prove pivotal, as Bale received the ball on the right in 1v1 coverage. Lewis Holtby ran Jack Cork towards goal, allowing the Welshman to drive inside on his left foot towards the middle. With defenders now closing, he fired an unstoppable shot past goalkeeper Artur Boruc.
The switch to move Gareth Bale to the right had once again paid dividends with another” massive win” in the chase for a Champions League place.
Should we play Gareth Bale on the right?
Gareth Bale has done well as a number ten, but with teams now wise of how to play him here and with Aaron Lennon struggling for fitness, may he should be given a run on the right.
In the games where he has played here, it has worked. Bale has been able to cut inside on to his trusty left foot and get shots away, very much in the manner that Andre Villas-Boas used Hulk for at Porto.
Three games and three goals, but Gareth Bale hasn’t just fired at the target. He’s also created chances, including setting up Clint Dempsey to start the run against Man City.
Without Aaron Lennon, playing Gareth Bale on the right may just be the answer to Spurs’ problem of width. It may also be the solution against teams who are looking to crowd him out in the centre.