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:
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:
1 Wojciech Szczesny
21 Lukasz Fabianski
3 Bacary Sagna
4 Per Mertesacker
5 Thomas Vermaelen
6 Laurent Koscielny
17 Nacho Monreal
25 Carl Jenkinson
28 Kieran Gibbs
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
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.
Hey Spurms, do us a favor love and buy somefink? Cheers, bye, bye, bye.