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Should we play Gareth Bale on the right?

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.

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Gareth Bale passes received and shots, 1st half Spurs 3 Man City 1.

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.

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Gareth Bale passes received and shots taken, 2nd half Spurs 3 Man City 1.

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.

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Gareth Bale gets in behind left back Gael Clichy.

Then he streaked through on to Tom Huddlestone’s pass, as he got in-behind Clichy once more.

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Tom Huddlestone finds Gareth Bale behind Clichy again.

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.

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Gareth Bale passes received and shots, Wigan 2 Spurs 2.

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.

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Spurs 1 Southampton 0: Gareth Bale passes received 0-60 minutes and 61-90 minutes.

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.

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Gareth Bale isolates Luke Shaw 1v1.

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.



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2 Responses to Should we play Gareth Bale on the right?

  1. lunarsea241 7th May 2013 at 7:15 pm #

    Great pre and post-match analysis again for the Southampton match, Mark. You seem to be spot on almost every single week!

    I definitely think that AVB should play Bale either on the left or the right for the remainder of the season. I don’t think he currently has the positional awareness to play effectively in the centre for the entire match, and as you’ve pointed out, other teams have his number there now and crowd him out.

    He’s a player who works best with space, owing to his incredible acceleration, pace, crossing & finishing (amongst other things!) whilst his technical ability in close quarters is not quite on par with his idol Ronaldo yet, but I’m giving it time!

    One of the reasons I think Ronaldo is so effective for Madrid (apart from his talent) is due to the quick tempo that they play, whilst spreading the ball wide and getting it to him often when he has a bit of space and the chance of a 1vs1 against an opposition defender.

    Bale thrives in similar situations but the problem is our current tactics aren’t encouraging this enough, except in the last 20 minutes when we are desperately chasing a result!

    AVB prefers the short-passing, slower gameplay and whilst the likes of Huddlestone & Holtby have good passing range and could get the ball quickly out to Bale, he’s been too stuck in central positions to take advantage of this, nor has AVB been too willing as of yet to play the long-ball (although the inclusion of Huddlestone – perhaps forced by other players’ injuries – may allow for this more).

    If Lennon is fit, then Bale should definitely play on the left in my opinion, at least to start. If Azza isn’t fit – which is looking very possible – then Bale could play on the right as the likes of Siggy & Dempsey seem to generally fare much better on the left, with Siggy in particular at least able to offer a bit more width even if this isn’t his natural game.

    Bale would likely come up against Mr Cole of Chelsea if he starts on the right though, which may prove a tall order, even for the Welsh Wizard.

    The team need to get the ball to Bale when he has the chance to take on one defender – particularly on the right where he is still learning to become adept – in order to get the most of him.

    With nobody else showing anything particularly promising in recent matches, AVB should definitely build his entire tactical approach around Bale for the remaining matches if Spurs want any chance of finishing Top 4.

    Looking forward to reading your Chelsea preview. We’ve got 3 Cup Finals in the next 2 weeks!!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 8th May 2013 at 11:30 am #

      Thanks, yes a matchup with Ashley Cole might not well be the best for him, but with Rafa using two of Ramires, Lampard, Mikel or Luiz in front of the back four, he may well find himself crowded out in the centre again. Azpilicueta is a good full back, but he does really like to get forward, so we may do well to hit the space in-behind him in transition. Playing Bale on the left tonight may be the answer.