Gareth Bale: Is Tottenham Winger the Premier League's Biggest Diver?

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2012

Gareth Bale: Is Tottenham Winger the Premier League's Biggest Diver?

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    Tottenham Hotspur winger Gareth Bale was booked for simulation for the second time in as many Premier League fixtures recently, sparking a debate that he had become the league's worst diver.

    Let's be clear from the outset. This isn't a collection to add to that argument, we're here to look at the instances surrounding the claims and try to decide whether the winger has gained himself an unfair reputation or the accusations are justified.

    A "league table" of bookings for diving was recently published by the Daily Mail, leaving Bale free and clear at the top with four to his name. No other Premiership player had more than two.

    Naturally, manager Andre Villas-Boas has defended his player in public (via The Mirror):

    It is difficult for him, particularly in the last two games. If he has a reputation I think it's a little bit unfair... the last two have been unfair. I think he uses it as a precaution from different types of challenges. I'm not saying all of the players that challenge Gareth are malicious but the action is so quick that it might look like it's not a foul while it is.

    In an attempt to prove or debunk the question, here's a recount of the instances of Gareth Bale being accused of diving.

Laughable Stuff Against Aston Villa

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    Earlier this season, Gareth Bale provided the Premier League with possibly the worst attempt at a dive since Patrick Vieira somehow avoided a second yellow card against Liverpool.

    Of course, it's possible that Brad Guzan kicks the air with the force of a jet engine, which in turn swiped Bale's feet away from under him, but it's more probable that this was merely one of those "anticipations" of a tackle...which simply never came.

    It's a dive, clear and simple.

    After something like this, referees, analysts and opposition fans are always going to be looking for the next occasion to accuse Bale of simulation and he can hardly have any complaints.

International Class Diving?

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    The Welsh wizard proved he can take his fancy footwork to the next level by winning (and converting) a penalty against Scotland for his nation, en route to a 2-1 win where he scored the other goal too.

    On this occasion, the incident in question went unpunished. In fact, Bale was awarded the spot kick after Shaun Maloney was adjudged to have tripped him.

    There were plenty after the game quick to condemn Bale for actually tripping himself and the video is rather inconclusive either way in fairness. Yes, Bale makes contact with his own leg, but is he first clipped by Maloney's right leg?

Most Recent Events vs. Liverpool and Fulham

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    A little over a week ago, Bale was carded for diving against Liverpool when he felt Daniel Agger tripped him and then he followed that up by tumbling over Steve Sidwell and receiving another yellow.

    In both instances, Bale has been pilloried by some and excused by others claiming there was contact on both occasions.

    Former referee Graham Poll went further and stated that regardless of whether the initial decision against Fulham was right or wrong, having been handed a yellow card, Bale should then have been sent off (via the Daily Mail):

    I would hope that the referee’s side would point out that whatever the decision, Bale should not applaud sarcastically as he did on Saturday. That should have resulted in his dismissal for a second caution.

    The former man in the middle is undoubtedly right in this instance—though as it happened, Bale went off injured later in the game and thus will miss Spurs' next game in any case.

But It's Nothing New

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    As far as Gareth Bale is concerned, we've seen this all before.

    This particular video, posted in March 2012, highlights games from previous seasons where Bale has gone to ground rather easily.

    The matches are against Real Madrid, Liverpool and Arsenal where his integrity, or perhaps merely his balance, are called into question—feel free to ignore or exclude from your thoughts the final (joke) scene of the video.

    Spurs' winger himself has had his say on the matter (via London24.com):

    I try not to get in the way of tackles and if people want to say I’m diving then they can, but I’m trying to get out of the way and save myself, to save my career. It’s football, it’s a contact sport, things do happen and you’ve got to try to be clever with it. People want to take you down and get you out of the game, and I suppose you can take it as a compliment. It’s not nice but I think it’s to be expected now.

    In a way they think that’s the only way they can stop you. They hit you, you get up and the best players get on with it and go at them again - until you’re actually really hurt! You get used to it, take it as a compliment and keep going at him. You think: “You can’t stop me and the only way you can is to foul me.” I’ve got a few people sent off by doing that this year.

    Whether his comments are enough to dissuade people from labelling him a diver now or they think his actions speak louder than words might be revealed after his return from injury.

    Bale has undoubtedly gotten himself a reputation now and, as other players have found out, that can be rather a difficult one to shake—even if he is actually being fouled.

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