The world is full of brain-busting mysteries; What is the Bermuda Triangle? Does Bigfoot really exist? Why would anyone pay 20 million for Jordan Henderson? but none of the aforementioned phenomena boggle the mind like what exactly is Gareth Bale’s best position? Is it left-wing, right-wing, left back or maybe page 73 of the Kama Sutra Christmas edition? Here we will explore the pros and cons of each position the Welsh Wizard could potentially occupy this season.
Tried and tested, Bale’s speed and skill has made many a mug of even the best full-backs. A deft piece of control from a ball spread wide, a knock into the space beyond the defender and then the hilarity of the poor right-back’s face as the mud from the back of Gareth’s boots hits him in the mouth. How many times have we seen this? In fact I have probably just described the reason that Maicon hasn‘t had a good night‘s sleep in 2 years. Bale loves getting to the by-line and drilling the ball through the 6 yard area, but also has the ability pick a cross from the deeper positions.
All in all, the left-wing role seems tailor made for a player that possesses the attributes of Bale, but a problem has arisen in the last year or so, mangers are getting wise to just how blisteringly good the boy is and tend to double up on him. Some even go as far as to base their own team selection on stifling the Lightening Lilywhite. Alex McLiesh gave us a good example in the first half of last season when Villa made a trip to the Lane. Not only did he start Carlos Cuellar, but also fielded the familiar face of Alan Hutton at right-midfield. Luckily for us Hutton is not actually very good at football and gave us many reasons to be happy that he is now playing for someone else, but against the better teams Gareth can find himself marked out of the game.
All in all, the left-wing role seems tailor made for a player that possesses the attributes of Bale, but a problem has arisen in the last year or so, mangers are getting wise to just how blisteringly good the boy is and tend to double up on him.
This was meant to be Bale’s primary position when we first acquired him from Southampton for an initial fee of 5million in 2007. Despite some early injuries and an unfortunate, rather misleading record of 24 consecutive games without a win, Gareth did not look out of place in the defensive role. His speed allowed him to not only get forward and support the midfield, but also keep up with the potential pace of pesky opposing wingers. The lad knows when to stick a foot in and is not easily skinned like some other full-backs we have had to put up with over the years. I believe if he had not been pushed up to the wing then he would simply be recognized as world class left-back today instead.
The downside of playing Bale at the back is it is just a simple waste of attacking talent, like using a sword to butter your toast. Although he dose have the defensive side of the game in his locker and our full-backs are given license to bomb on, he is just too devastating on the front foot to be restricted in such a way. When on the wing he still helps out at the back when necessary, but being let off the defensive leash means that he is usually in a more forward position when on the counter, which is where we all love to see him do some damage.
It is a growing trend among managers to play wingers on the opposite side to their strongest foot. This makes it easier for the player to cut inside, and either deliver a dipping cross over the top of the back line or gives him a better individual position to shoot. The positives to Bale being on the right is that his left foot can unleash rockets of pure explosive magic. Taking you ‘one-on-one’ on the outside or cutting into the middle, Gareth running at you is scary anyway which way you look at it.
The thing is that Bale never looks quite as sure of himself on the right as he does on the left. He tends to get caught in 2 minds between cutting back on to his favoured foot or getting to by-line and putting the ball in the mixer like he would on his traditional left sided role. I think this makes him slightly less effective than when he is striding with the with sure footed purpose that we have become accustomed to.
Some have wondered if Bale could emulate what happened at Woolwich when the horrible manger, who’s name I can’t bring myself to type, took a struggling French left winger and disgustingly made him one of Europe’s top marksmen. I don’t think it can be denied that Gareth has all the credentials to make a very formidable striking package, he’s fast, good in the air, has great close control and as good a finish as anyone at the club (though maybe this is not the most glowing of references). He also struck up a near telepathic understanding with Ade last year and this could possibly be further utilised by playing the 2 closer together.
On the flip side of the coin, Bale wouldn’t see as much of the ball up-front as he does when sitting in the deeper positions, nor would he be afforded the space that can come with playing out wide. A player with Gareth’s natural talents needs to be on the ball as much he can.
In conclusion, it is of my opinion that Bale best fits the team as an old fashioned left winger, this is where I have witnessed his class make my heart leap for joy like no player has since the fantastic flamboyance of David Ginola. I am not discounting his ability to do a good job in any of the above positions and us of the fanatical Spurs persuasion should be privileged to have a player who can fulfil so many areas with such excellence, but I feel that he has made the left wing his own. These though are the thoughts of one fan and where Gareth’s future will take him is still very much up for debate.