Premier League: Are Tottenham Missing Gareth Bale? Analysing the Stats
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Yet even with some of the tremendous moments provided by the players who have stepped forward in his absence—for example, Christian Eriksen's debut versus Norwich City and Paulinho's late winner at Cardiff City—the Welshman has clearly already left a void that will not easily be filled.
Tottenham believe in their squad's ability to ultimately get by and perhaps even prosper without Bale. Fresh from a spectacular 2012-'13 campaign and the brilliant goals that lit it up though, getting someone to produce and capture supporters' imagination like that will take some time.
Patience is not a virtue to be advised with Arsenal mocking a Bale-less Spurs in the meantime.
Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis trolls Spurs, saying Gareth Bale has left to join 'one of our rivals.' http://t.co/Tkwj4DU9DE— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) October 17, 2013
Besides emotional attachment and excitement value, the performance of Andre Villas-Boas' team gives credence to the assertion only time will truly tell how they have fared without him.
For instance, Gylfi Sigurdsson—Spurs' left-midfielder (i.e where Bale generally played) in four of their seven Premier League games—notched three goals a good month before Bale reached that tally at the same stage last season.
As welcome as Sigurdsson's goalscoring contribution has been, you would not cite that as evidence he has performed better than Bale.
The latter might not have been in one of his most prolific spells early last season, but circumstances were different. The recently installed Villas-Boas was still familiarising himself with his new club, so much so Bale even started in his old position of left-back in the 2-1 win over Queens Park Rangers (a short-lived experiment, changed by halftime).
Likewise, comparing the two players is difficult with no ideal point of comparison at this early stage. The context of different parts of the season make doing so subject to many different factors.
Take both of these player's most recent starts against Chelsea—for Sigurdsson the 1-1 draw last month at White Hart Lane, Bale the 2-2 at Stamford Bridge last May. (The following stats are all via Squawka.com).
Each started on the left, but at different grounds in different circumstances. Sigurdsson had a better percentage of completed passes (75 percent), more successful take-ons (three to Bale's two) and a goal too.
Bale had one of his poorer nights on the attacking front. But as shown by the interception, two tackles he made and two aerial duels he won, there were other areas he contributed on a night Spurs were battling to stay in Champions League contention.
Of course, in the final few months of Bale's Tottenham career he was just as likely to be utilised in central attacking midfield. Christian Eriksen has taken up that role now, but his remit differs somewhat to his predecessor's.
Putting Bale there was primarily about harnessing his devastating goal threat. The 3-2 win over West Ham United in February demonstrated why it was such a tempting option to have him operate from there.
He scored two crucial goals and got off a further eight shots. He completed 100 percent of his take-ons and provided seven crosses that made their target too.
Eriksen's recent display in the 3-0 loss versus the Hammers (again, in different circumstances) pales in comparison in these categories—no shots at all, and he was stopped in his two attempts to dribble past a player.
However, while it is hoped the Dane's flair and skill will shine in the role in the long term, he also has more responsibility to involve others. Even in a comparatively underwhelming outing, Eriksen still completed 74 percent of his passes. A better mark than Bale's 70 percent against the same opposition, having only taken one more pass too.
As noted early on this article, it will be some time before Spurs can properly consider how much they have missed Bale. For the time being, the most telling indicator will be results.
Bale became Spurs' primary match-winner (or match-saver in the case of draws like the 1-1 with Norwich City in January) over the course of his last season in North London.
Villas-Boas' remodelled team has found ways to win four of their seven league games thus far, suggesting the ability is there to get by without their most expensive former player.
But the losses in big games to Arsenal and West Ham—teams Bale played a significant part in dispatching last season—is a reminder that replacing their former star's ability to lead them to wins on such occasions will not be easy.
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