Gareth Bale: Making the Spurs Star's Case as Premier League Player of the Year
Looking back at the particulars of the Welshman's season, Bleacher Report makes the case as to why Bale is worthy of all these individual accolades.
The key numbers behind this, and Bale's ascension to front-runner for the club's own player of the year and the Premier League-wide awards, are his goalscoring and assist tallies (totals are in all competitions, via ESPN FC).
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Bale's first two seasons in North London were ravaged by injury. In 2009-10, he came in at the midway point as left-back before the clear attacking threat he offered down that flank saw Harry Redknapp push him forward.
That was the turning point in his Tottenham career. Subsequently, the above table only counts the following three seasons (including this current one).
Each of those campaigns have seen Bale increase the amount of goals he has directly contributed to. From a dangerous, though inconsistent threat, he has developed into his team's mostly influential attacking presence.
Bale is on the verge of making his most appearances ever for a single campaign (currently one behind 2011-12's 42).
He won the 2010-11 PFA Player of the Year award on the basis of a particularly strong first half of the season (featuring the memorable Champions League displays against Inter Milan). This season, he has played more games, impressing in a greater number of them than in any previous year.
Bale and His Rivals
It has undeniably contributed to the prevalence of attacking players contending for these individual trophies. However, this is not to detract from the superb work they have done themselves.
Liverpool's Luis Suarez and Manchester United's Robin van Persie—the two other award front-runners—have both scored more than Bale this season (30 and 29, respectively). As the previous page discussed, the Tottenham man's goals are a primary reason why he is in contention, too.
So what makes Bale stand out above those two (and to a slightly lesser extent, other contenders like Michu)?
Largely, it comes down to personal preference. However, essentially, there are three significant categories that count in voting for these awards:
- Contributions (goals, assists, clean sheets, etc.)
- The importance of those contributions to their team (games won, league position, etc.)
- Je ne sais quoi (the intangibles—style, heart, toughness)
There is little between the trio in the first category. All three have shone in the third, too, frequently displaying it in their desire to win, with each able to point to a signature contribution (something akin to college football's "Heisman moments").
Suarez's deftly taken equalizer against Newcastle in November stands out for the Uruguayan. Van Persie scored a crucial late winner against Manchester City, and marked his team's title-winning year with a superb volley against Aston Villa last week.
As for Bale, pick any one of his stunning and/or important goals in his late-winter run of scoring in seven out of eight Tottenham games.
Why Bale Ultimately Stands out
It is the value of each player's contributions, where the Welshman just about edges his competitors.
Liverpool might not have been as high as their current position of seventh but for Suarez. As good a season as he has had though, it has not been enough for his team to achieve anything notable (and this is not a slight on the striker at all or on a campaign of progression under Brendan Rodgers' management).
Man United have undoubtedly benefited from adding Van Persie to their ranks. The Dutchman may have been the difference in them taking the title back off Man City. Even so, Sir Alex Ferguson would have had a competitive team, regardless.
Tottenham, it is pretty safe to assume, would not still be contending for a place in the top four and Champions League qualification without Bale.
Andre Villas-Boas' side is better than the "one-man team" insults some have cast at them. Yet their reportedly in-demand talisman has taken them up to a whole other level.
Bale was a frequent contributor throughout the autumn. When Spurs' form tailed off in November, his prominent role in important wins over West Ham United and Liverpool played its part in sparking a strong winter for the club.
The demands of the Christmas and New Year's period began to take their toll by late January, and Spurs initially experienced a dip in form. Bale put the team on his back for a few weeks (beginning with an equalizer against Norwich City) and carried them through to a resurgence that included big wins in Europe and in London derbies in the league.
Bale's importance to the team was underlined by his injury-enforced absence in a run of draws in April. Spurs were neither as incisive or entertaining in attack without him (though other factors contributed to this, too, like injuries to Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon).
Tottenham will need players other than Bale to step up if they are to win their remaining games. Any strong finish, though, is likely to have his imprint on it.
Bale Has Caught the Eye
As already noted, for anyone voting for a footballer of the year—be it fans, journalists or players themselves—it comes down to personal preference.
Statistics only mean so much here, and it will be what someone sees with their own two eyes that largely decides it for them.
The reasons already discussed are why Bale is one of the main men in contention to be deemed the Premier League's player of the season. Nobody watching him could have failed to have seen his quality or noted his impact.
Going by the decision of the players to give him their awards, he has caught the eye above all others. Given the competition, that is a heck of an achievement.