How will Gareth Bale improve Tottenham?
Tottenham Hotspur is priming herself for the return of one of their greatest ever exports.
Gareth Bale’s move from Real Madrid to North London naturally brings along excitement for every Spurs fan, but is he really the type of player Jose Mourinho needs to lift his team in the top 4?
Where will Bale integrate in Mourinho’s system?
Although for the next couple of rounds his fitness level will probably not be high enough to start the matches, I don’t see Lucas Moura keeping Bale on the bench for too many weeks. On a longer term, the Brazilian is going to be the most affected player by Bale’s loan in, as the 31-year old Welsh plays his best football when displayed on the right wing.
Spurs’ top goalscorer in the 2012/2013 season will partner up on that flank with the newly-arrived Matt Doherty. The question to be asked here is whether Bale can do his bit on the defensive play, given Doherty’s appeal to attack and leave his position exposed and Jose’s demands for defensive discipline.
For sure, Mourinho is rejoicing to have another player that, like Son, can be deadly on counter-attacks, his favourite weapon. However, when Tottenham is getting hold of the ball they are lacking creativity and Bale is not the man to solve this problem.
Yes, he can find the back of the net with long-distance shots every now and then, but he’s not a Christian Eriksen, he won’t assist-feed his teammates. That profile of player hasn’t been covered yet by the coach since the departure of the Danish ‘prince’.
Another problem that Spurs have and can’t be fixed by the return of the Welsh is the back-up solution for Harry Kane’s injuries. While Bale has previously figured as a centre-forward or a second striker, he is as useful as Lucas, Son or Bergwijn when it comes to replacing Tottenham’s scoring machine.
Bale is infinitely more comfortable with the ball at his feet, not in the air. He needs spaces between him and the enemy lines when he gets the ball so that he can make use of his speed. He can not be the Fernando Llorente type of player, so he will cover just the area behind Kane, already contested by at least six players.
When will he be fit enough?
The biggest concern there related to Gareth Bale is how fit he is right now. How much will it take to get him back to the shape he was in when he scored in the Champions League finals? Is that even possible?
He only featured 16 times for Real Madrid in the previous season. Also, he got his name on the scoreboard just once in his last 17 appearances across all competitions (including Wales national team), in a Copa del Rey match against Unionistas. Later that game he will have left the field injured.
Recently, injuries haven’t been a friend of Gareth’s. Most important, they appeared in times when Zinedine Zidane seemed to be willing to give him some more game time. Compounding the injuries situation and the relationship breakdown between the two results in less than one hundred minutes played at club level since the end of February.
Age is another element not running in Bale’s favour. Recovery processes get tougher once the player hits 30+ years. He will need to be a hard-worker in training for the following weeks and months, an attitude he probably didn’t have in the past few seasons in Spain. However, if there is a manager in the world that can rejuvenate players past their 30s, his name is Mourinho.
Gareth Bale brings experience and trophy-winning mentality to the Spurs’ table. While his quality is still massive, I’m not sure if/how he can compensate for the lack of creativity in the midfield area. Nevertheless, Bale on the flank, ball at his feet, in the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium… one of the best things to see this season in the Premier League.