Gareth Bale’s talents were well known to Spurs and Southampton supporters but he was somewhat of an unknown commodity until three weeks ago that is. His performance against reigning European Champions Inter, at the San Siro was spectacular and magnificent.
A hat-trick against arguably the best Defense in European Football is as clear an indication as any, about his exemplary skill. His efforts weren’t good enough as Spurs had allowed Inter to race into a 4-0 lead before half-time and they ended up losing 4-3. Bale would have his chance to get one back a fortnight later when Spurs would host Inter at White Hart Lane.
Would Bale manage a repeat of his 7-star performance? The answer was an emphatic yes. He didn’t manage to score any goals himself but his overall play bettered his San Siro efforts. He made Maicon look like an amateur and this is the Best Right Back in the World we are referring to here!
For long periods of the game, the home-side’s approach was just “Give it to Bale” and who can blame them when someone is at the peak of their powers like he was that night. Spurs won the match 3-1 and Bale in particular received plaudits from the world over for his virtuoso performance.
A couple of days later though, Bolton Wanderers did what Inter couldn’t: Stop Bale. Spurs lost 4-2 and Bale was kept under control by Bolton’s Gretar Steinsson and Lee Chung-Yong. The method they used is what most teams in the Premier League would. Inter rarely got stuck into Bale and that is exactly what Bolton did. Wingers in the Premier League have to adjust their style of play to be able to handle a more physical approach. Some have managed this transition better than others.
This debate revolved around the 3 best wingers/wide players in the Premier League right now: Bale, Nani and Malouda.
The factors used for comparison are: Goals, Assists, Shots on Goal and Fouls Suffered.
Bale has scored 2 goals in 11 Premier League games. That equates to 0.18 goals per game. In the same time he has had 0 assists, 7 shots on goal and 19 fouls suffered. The high number of fouls suffered is symptomatic of how defenses in the Premier League might try to handle Bale. The Fouls Suffered is an important statistic as a goal could easily have resulted from the following free-kick.
A player is often only as good as the rest of his team and in Bale’s case, Spurs inconsistency must hurt his individual performances. Compared to his competition in this debate, he is playing in a weaker team. This has a two-fold effect. It gives him a chance to shine more as he is the brightest talent on the team but it also means that his team gets bullied and he cannot be expected to bring his team from 4-0 down to 4-3 every other week.
Bale’s performances in the Champions League have surprisingly been better. He has managed 4 goals in 4 games and also has 2 assists to his name. At the same time, he has 6 shots on goal and 7 fouls suffered. On a side note he has had 0 red cards, thus has a good head on his shoulders.
Florent Malouda plays in a team of champions. He has world class players like Drogba, Anelka and Lampard around him. While this means that his team is stronger than most oppositions, he has to share the spot light with his illustrious team-mates. Given this, let us see how Malouda has fared this season.
In the Premier League, he has managed 7 goals in 10 games at 0.7 goals per game. He has 11 shots on goal and has suffered 7 fouls thus far. The presence of Drogba and Anelka means that any shot parried by the opposition keeper and a free kick in a threatening area might lead to goals more often than not.
In the Champions League, he has managed no goals in 3 outings and has just a solitary shot on goal thus far. The opposition has fouled him 3 times. It is fair to say by these numbers that the Champions League 2010/11 hasn’t seen the best of Malouda yet.
Malouda has 0 Yellow and Red Cards thus far and that is always a positive for someone expected be on the creative side of things. Malouda’s numbers are strong and most Chelsea fans would say that this entire debate is a no-brainer
Nani is unfortunate to be playing at the same time as another great Portugese Winger and we all know I am referring to here. With Ronaldo’s departure from Old Trafford, the stage was all set for Nani to shine but things didn’t turn out exactly that way from the get-go. However from the middle of last season, Nani has become a much more consistent player without losing any of his flair in the process.
Rooney’s absence and loss of form has cleared the stage for Nani to become the type of player Ronaldo was for Manchester United. His goals per game ratio could still be better but everyone would agree that he is showing a marked improvement every season.
Nani has managed 4 goals in 9 Premier League appearances at 0.44 goals per game. He has 13 shots on goal this term and has been hacked down by opposition defenders on 19 occasions.
In the Champions League, he has scored a solitary goal in 3 games. He has managed 2 shots on goal and has suffered 5 fouls along the way.
Thus it is clear to see that he has suffered the most number of fouls compared to Malouda and Bale and in the modern game with expert free-kick takers, one cannot underestimate the importance of free kicks.
The Old Trafford faithful will point to the fact that Nani is playing without Rooney alongside and his numbers would be as strong as Malouda if that were the case.
While Bale has been focus of attention in the World’s Media, overall in the Premier League, Malouda and Nani are still a little above Bale in terms of consistency and output. One can argue that Bale playing for one of the Big-4 would have much stronger numbers but we shall leave that debate for another day.
Another name that come to the fray is David Silva but given that this is his debut season in a new team and a new league, it would be unfair to pass a judgment on him.
Between Nani and Malouda then: Malouda has more goals but Nani has made the opposition commit more number of fouls with a couple of goals less than the Frenchman. Given these numbers, it is too hard to split the two and I will have to sit on the fence on this one with Malouda and Nani both being the best wingers in the Premier League right now.
I look forward to your opinion and I’m sure many of you would disagree and agree with me.