We’re only two games in to the new season, so it’s not quite time to start panicking yet, but Gareth Bale is still to provide a goal or an assist for Spurs.
He had to wait until our fifth match last term, when his header away to Wigan catapulted him on his way to a ten goal and fourteen-assist haul.
The signs this campaign have been getting better though and after Saturday’s frustrating 1-1 draw with West Brom, the indicators are there that Gareth Bale is ready to breakout.
What makes me so sure that someone is in for a torrid time? Let’s have a look at his play so far.
Gareth Bale positioning
The positioning of Gareth Bale has improved over his first two matches. Away to Newcastle, he picked up the ball fairly shallow on the left, but came in to the middle more looking to gain possession. Too many of his touches were deep though, especially when he moved over to the right after switching wings with Aaron Lennon, a tactic we should avoid.
Against West Brom at the weekend, Gareth Bale was under orders to play with more width as we looked to expose stand-in right back Steven Reid.
Consequently, Bale picked the ball up higher up the pitch and in more attacking areas. When he did come inside to receive possession, it was further as the increased number of passes received in the box show.
Against Newcastle, Gareth Bale only received two passes in the box and got two shots away. One was blocked, but the other was a header against the Newcastle bar as he almost opened his account.
In the West Brom game, he received three passes in their area, but was able to get five shots away in the match this time.
This is only a marginal improvement of getting in to the box from his first Premier League match. However, when you consider that West Brom sat back and tried to force Spurs to shoot from outside the area, it’s a positive sign that he is being more aggressive in his play. The result was an increased number of shots, indicating that goals are on the horizon.
Gareth Bale shooting
With that in mind, let’s take a look at his shooting.
Against Newcastle, Gareth Bale was wandering across the pitch a bit more and was only able to get one shot away inside the penalty area. This came back off the bar from Aaron Lennon’s cross from the right-hand side. His other effort from outside the area was blocked.
As we saw earlier, Gareth Bale played a lot wider in the match against West Brom. What Bale’s better positioning in this match has done, is allowed him to get more shots away by moving inside when the play has gone away from his wing.
His primary role was to get the ball in behind Steven Reid and cut it back for others to attack and he does this by creating five chances.
As we saw in the Spurs 1 West Brom 1 match report, Rafael van der Vaart was moving to the right side of the pitch. With Spurs attack going 40% of the time down this side, he wanted to get involved in the play with Lennon and Walker down this flank.
Gareth Bale gets five shots away in the match, with three passes from the above three players. He gets in to good shooting locations once the ball has gone right and he has come to the centre. Only the pass from Walker leads to a shot on target though, as the other two efforts from inside the box are put over the bar.
The signs from the match last week against West Brom are promising and bode well for this weekend’s visit of Norwich.
In his first two matches, Gareth Bale has profited from moving inside in to central shooting locations once the ball has gone towards the right. This is not to say that he should just be looking to shoot from here once the play has switched to the right side. He is more than capable of beating his man off the dribble to get a shot away from the left as well.
He hit the bar against Newcastle from Lennon’s cross and had three good efforts from passes inside to him from Walker, Lennon and van der Vaart against West Brom. So, the trend right now is him getting good chances once the ball has gone to the right side of the field. He remains, as always, a threat to score from the left though.
If Gareth Bale continues the improvement that he has shown between our first two Premier League matches, then a goal is just around the corner.