Tag Archives: Gareth Bale

baleless

Arsenal should gazump Real Madrid and sign Bale

Many Arsenal supporters hate Gareth Bale. I’m not one of them. I happen to think he is the most exciting player in the League. I also happen to think Arsenal should be bold and try to prise him from Tottenham. Of course, it will never happen but here’s at least some reasoning why I think it should.

First, let’s just start with what Bale did for Tottenham. We often complain that Walcott, for example, scores meaningless goals. That the young Englishman will get the 4th goal in a 5-2 blow-out for example, and there is merit to that argument. Game winning goals matter more than other goals. But that’s actually what makes Bale’s season last year so special: his goals won Spurs 11 League games:

Sunderland 1-0
Southampton 1-0
Man City 3-1 goal and assist
Swansea 2-1 goal and assist
West Ham 3-2 two goals
Newcastle 2-1 two goals
West Brom 1-0
Villa 4-0 hat trick
Liverpool 2-1 goal and assist
West Ham 3-1 scored the second goal
Reading 3-1 scored the second goal

His goals also nabbed one draw (Norwich 1-1). That means all totaled, Gareth Bale’s offensive contribution gave Tottenham 34 of their total 72 points. 47% of their total points were from Bale. Moreover, 16 of his 21 League goals directly went to winning his team points. This matches up well with our perception of Bale as a match winner. The kind of player who just wants to win at all costs.

Bale is also a long distance specialist scoring 9 goals from outside the box. That’s more than any other player in the top five leagues. He shoots more than anyone from distance as well, but his conversion rate was a very respectable 9.4%. To put that into perspective, Luis Suarez only converted 12% of all of his attempts and if you remember that he converted 16/30 from big chances but 7/157 from the rest of the field meaning Suarez has a 53% conversion in great positions and 4% conversion rate from everywhere else on the pitch. Bale is double that, from distance. An amazing number, truly.

These long distance goals open teams up to inside threats and should also keep defenders tight to him. As a result, he should have more successful dribbles but he was a bit lacking there. He was one of the most prolific dribblers in terms of attempts but only completed 43%. That’s about on par with Theo Walcott (47/107), whom many think is a terrible dribbler (he isn’t, Suarez is only 37%, for example).

Bale also has tremendous growth potential. Spurs were a pitiful team last season and his teammates only created 12 “big chances” for him. But to Bale’s credit, he converted 7 of those 12 chances. To give you a comparison, Giroud was presented with 23 “big chances” last season and he scored just 4. Big chance conversion is the bread and butter of strikers. They shouldn’t have to rely on long distance shots, dead ball shots, and other attempts to get their goals.

Bale also creates chances for others, leading his team with 75 key passes. Bale creates his own shot, she scores from distance, from set plays, and converts his big chances, he isn’t a huge turnover machine (he is actually pretty evenly split in my analysis with 10.35 positive actions per 90 and 10.65 negative actions), and he wins his team games. That’s why Spurs want £80m for him.

The problems with Bale are the fact that Spurs want £80m for him and that his numbers last season were so astronomically good that you have to worry if he can repeat the feat.

The £80m problem may be bigger than Arsenal can manage, I suspect. Looking at the first team names, the Gunners only have 18 players who are reliable starters:

GOALKEEPERS
1 Wojciech Szczesny
21 Lukasz Fabianski
DEFENDERS
3 Bacary Sagna
4 Per Mertesacker
5 Thomas Vermaelen
6 Laurent Koscielny
17 Nacho Monreal
25 Carl Jenkinson
28 Kieran Gibbs
MIDFIELDERS
7 Tomas Rosicky
8 Mikel Arteta
10 Jack Wilshere
16 Aaron Ramsey
19 Santi Cazorla
24 Abou Diaby — not reliably healthy
26 Emmanuel Frimpong — not good enough
31 Ryo Miyaichi — not even close
STRIKERS
9 Lukas Podolski
12 Olivier Giroud
14 Theo Walcott
15 Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
22 Yaya Sanogo — first year
30 Ju-Young Park — no
52 Nicklas Bendtner — he is listed on the official site, just to make it look like Arsenal have numbers, they don’t.

If there is any hope that Arsene plans to buy some players, it’s got to rest on the fact that the Gunners are sitting there with just 18 first team players. With such a threadbare first team at least part of Arsene Wenger’s sizeable warchest has to be spent on bringing in 3-5 players. If Wenger were to spend all of the Swiss Ramble’s estimated £70-100m, we might get real close to Tottenham’s Bale-valuation and have some money left over to get in a couple of £10m players. But it would be real close and maybe even impossible.

I say that while wondering how much of his transfer would be recouped in increased sponsorships, television appearances, winning trophies, shirt sales and the like? Bale already sells a lot of shirts and his face is used on ads in Times Square — we can only imagine what his impact would be to Arsenal’s global profile: it would be the biggest signing Arsenal have ever made, hands down. That has to be worth something. £10m a year?

The biggest problem is that last year was a real break-out season for Bale and questions have to be asked whether he can do it again. Andres Villas-Boas improved Bale’s game by giving him the freedom to roam and raid the opposition defenses from both sides of the pitch, especially his favored right to left cut back and *bang* distance shot. Wenger’s Arsenal would give him the same freedom but can he do it again?

So, is he worth £100m? I think you’d be paying over the odds. But honestly? Not by much. He is 24 years old, if you put him on a five year deal, that’s £20m a year amortized in transfer costs. How much of that is recouped winning trophies, bigger sponsorships, more television time, and so on? We don’t know that answer. There’s also the fact that you’re taking the best player away from a hated rival who has been threatening to overtake you in the League table. How much is that worth? If sports are about fantasies and doing a job on your rivals then taking Bale from Spurs seems like it would be worth £100m alone!

The only problem is if he caught lightning in a bottle last season. If he continues to perform at the same level, or above, then it seems to me that it would be well worth the money.

Qq

Hey Spurms, do us a favor love and buy somefink? Cheers, bye, bye, bye.

Or this…

Brilliant.

better

Bale better than Messi? He’s not even better than Walcott

Arsene Wenger did his usual pre-match press conference and spoke to the collected media ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup match against Blackburn. Naturally, the Arsenal manager fielded a plethora of off-topic questions including the most ridiculous question of the day, “Lionel Messi… better than Bale?”

Perhaps it’s natural for the English press to get excited about a Welsh player who has scored all six of his team’s goals in their last four matches but what isn’t natural is how excited they get. I’m paraphrasing with my quotation above, but the reality is that at an Arsenal press conference Arsene Wenger was asked if Gareth Bale should be ranked in the same group as the world’s best players; Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo.

Not to put too fine a point on it but Gareth Bale is a decent goal scorer and has 13 goals in 23 League appearances for Tottenham. Mr. Ronaldo is also a decent goal scorer and his tally is 24 goals in 23 league games for Real Madrid. And of course, Lionel Messi is not a million miles off Bale’s pace with his paltry 35 goals in 23 league games.

But that’s just the respective league games. Bale had chipped in a whopping 4 more goals in all appearances for Tottenham bringing his total goals haul to 17 in 31 apps. Which is slightly less than half the 39 goals Ronaldo has in 39 appearances and is almost 30 less than the 46 goals in 33 appearances that Lionel Messi has amassed this season.

Then there’s Ibrahimovich and his 21 goals, Falcao has 19 league goals, you know… in fact, in terms of just league goals scored there are 13 players above Gareth Bale, just in the top 5 leagues in Europe.

So, let’s see here… Is Gareth Bale in the top three for all players in the world? I’m going with… no.

Naturally, Arsene Wenger put it more eloquently than I do:

He has the potential to develop and to get close to the players you compare him to, but Ronaldo and Messi? Messi has won two or three Champions League titles. He has won a few championships. He scored more than 90 goals last year. Let’s not go too quick [in comparing Bale to Messi]. You are always very quick here, but let’s slow down a bit.

Part of the reason why Bale’s name came up today is because Arsene apparently passed up the chance to sign Gareth Bale at the same time that he took Arsenal’s star forward Theo Walcott. Both players came from the Southampton academy and both were on Arsene’s radar. Ultimately, he just chose Theo Walcott which naturally leads the press to speculate over whether Arsene made the right choice.

Wenger stood his ground on taking Walcott over Bale. Defending the Englishman, who made his 250th Arsenal appearance last week, by stating that Walcott has improved significantly over the last year.

It’s unbelievable. I believe what this season shows is the remarkable evolution of Theo Walcott. He’s a complete player today and his transformation is absolutely sensational. He improves every week and it shows that he is remarkably intelligent as well, because he understands things quickly, takes them on board and is open-minded. That’s why I believe he is always improving.

And looking at Theo Walcott’s numbers you can see what Wenger is talking about.

Walcott

Despite fewer starts than last season Walcott has seen an uptick in nearly every category representing a four year high in his developmental arc. The numbers above are all just his League numbers and Gareth Bale is compared on the far left. This season Walcott has 11 goals (a career high), 8 assists (a career high), 5.27 shots per goal (a career best), 1.7 dribbles per game (a career best), career lows in being dispossessed and in turnovers (which you all know I love!), and despite losing Arsenal’s best goal scorer (and Walcott’s number one target for assists from the last three years) now has a career best in key passes per assist meaning that Walcott’s key passes are not just finding players who are in shooting position but finding players who are in turn scoring goals.

But it’s true that Gareth Bale is better than Theo Walcott in a few categories. Notably, he has 13 goals in the League. But did you know that Theo Walcott actually has 18 goals in all competitions for Arsenal and that Gareth Bale only has the 17? Not only that but Walcott has the edge in assists as well with 11 to Bale’s 6.

But Walcott does fall short of Bale in a few categories: Walcott takes fewer shots than Bale, demands less of the ball, turns the ball over less, and Bale also edges Walcott in yellow cards for diving.

Maybe the press asked the wrong question. It’s not whether Gareth Bale is good enough to be in the rarefied air of footballing gods like Messi and Ronaldo, but whether he’s even as good as Theo Walcott?

Nope.

Qq

I like how Luis Suarez pulls back his sock to reveal the devestating injury that Szczesny supposedly inflicted.

The way to end the debate between dive v. foul

Every few months sports pundits get riled up over some new (or old) perceived slight to their collective manhood, gather up the pitchforks and torches and set off to burn down every village from midlands to the sea in order to wipe this threat to sport off the face of the Earth. A few months back it was the brandishing of imaginary yellow card. Before that it was diving. Then there was cursing. Diving. Imaginary yellow cards. Surrounding the referees. Cursing. Diving. Raising one’s arm “like a sissy” in order to get an offside. And on and on.

This week, it’s back to diving in football. It’s a scourge. It’s cheating. It’s something only foreigners do. It’s something foreigners invented. It needs to be stamped out of football. It needs retroactive bans. It’s worse than a stamp to the face by Robert Huth. It is, in short, the worst thing that ever happened in the history of mankind — this month.

It may or may not be all of those things but there’s one thing I can guarantee you, just like any other form of cheating, it’s never going to go away. But I have a proposal that may help ameliorate some of the heated rhetoric about what constitutes a dive, a foul, and whether or not a player should be labeled a cheat or whether he should be labeled a hero.

But first, let’s define a dive. For that, here’s a handy corporate-type four square dividing up the four main types of events surrounding a dive on a football field:

On the left side of the square we have the noble non-divers and on the right side of the square we have the ignoble dirty cheaters. On the top of the square are fouls and on the bottom are non-fouls. Simplistic enough?

The two items below the equator are almost never in dispute. Uhh… no contact, no dive is easy: Vermaelen foolishly sticks a leg out  to stop Ashley Young but misses player and ball,  Ashley Young miraculously stays on his feet. Play on! No contact plus dive is also easy because those of us in the television audience with access to instant replay get to see them re-run nauseum.

Here’s a great example of no contact/dive as Gareth Bale looks like he slipped on a banana:

 via Who Ate All the Pies

I am firmly in favor of retroactive punishment for this blatant form of cheating. That is, of course, as long as all forms of blatant cheating are retroactively punished: leg breaking tackles, leg breaking intentional stamps on Sagna’s leg, elbows to the face, karate kicks to the chest, etc. All of which are forms of breaking the rules and all of which deserve to be punished after the fact in the way they should have been punished during the match: a yellow for diving, a red for breaking someone’s leg.

Perhaps a yellow card isn’t harsh enough for a dive? Fine, treat it exactly like a denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity and make it a one-match red card then. Both are a similar form of cheating. Um, while we are at it can we also get the leg breaking stamps and karate kicks to be ramped up to at least a 5 match ban? Please?

Now that we’ve solved that little problem, let’s move on to the big kahuna: contact/dive. This one is a holy war of sorts with folks on one side who believe that any contact at all is a foul and those on the other who believe that any amount of simulation is a dive. It is precariously placed there between the two on our four square despite the fact that the people who believe it is a dive will never believe it is a foul and vice-versa.

I’m not sure when it happened but at some point the idea crept into football’s collective unconscious that any contact on a player “running full speed” is a foul. Thus, when a player does simulate the foul to be harder than it was, people on the “foul” side will argue that “there was contact” and thus the offensive player is well within his rights to go down. Meanwhile people on the “simulation” side will complain that the player “made a meal” of the contact and took a dive.

Here’s an example of Charles N’Zogbia doing just that against Arsenal and winning himself a penalty:

As you can clearly see, Koscielny’s right foot clips N’Zogbia’s left knee. As you can also see, N’Zogbia’s brain takes a second to realize the contact. He starts to plant his right foot but realizes that he could win a free kick and lifts his right foot off the ground and rolls like a judo champ taking a fall in practice.

What if we treated this just as it happened rather than letting one player prevail over the other? What if we gave the free kick for the foul and the yellow card (or red card) for the exaggeration? Is it not possible that it can be both at the same time?

Problem solved, world war 3 avoided, and no one could possibly complain. Except you, who will do so in the comments.

Qq