Opinion: Gareth Bale’s Spurs return can still be a success but his role may have to change

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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

It is fair to say that the football world was shocked to the core when Gareth Bale rejoined Tottenham Hotspur on a season-long loan in the summer transfer window.

It was not only viewed as an incredible reunion but also a signing that could seriously bolster Spurs’ attacking options, with Bale lining up alongside Kane and Son.

Unfortunately, in reality, the move has been a bit of a disappointment, with Bale struggling for minutes in North London. It would be unfair to label the loan as particularly bad, but it has been far from good either. It’s just been… nothing.

Let’s run through the stats.

Bale has only accumulated 623 minutes in a Spurs shirt so far this season, 393 of those coming in the Europa League group stages, 160 in the Premier League, 45 in the EFL Cup, and 25 in the FA Cup (Transfermarkt).

However, the Welshman does have two vital goals to show for it. His crucial header against Brighton secured a precious three points in the league, and his clever guided header against Stoke City sent Spurs on their way to a Carabao Cup semi-final. He also grabbed a third in a Europa League game against LASK.

Having said this, in terms of his actual performances, he has been a tad underwhelming. The 31-year-old looks cautious of getting injured and seems to lack the drive required to grab the game by the scruff of the neck.

For context, I must add that fitness is a big issue here. He had a knee injury at the start of the season, and the aim was clearly to build-up his fitness in the Europa League. He did that, to an extent, but another injury in December has stunted the progress.

Of course, no one was expecting the same 21-year-old that could run 50 yards just because, but what was expected was a more mature, streetwise but still quality player who could add another dimension to Spurs’ attack.

There have been signs of this. Especially with his clever headed goals against Stoke and Brighton, where he was simply in the right place at the right time.

So, how can Bale 2.0 become a success?

First of all, he has to start playing. Against Fulham and Sheffield United, he was an unused substitute. Both of those games felt like correct situations for the Welshman to get some valuable minutes under his belt. After all, there is only one way to build up match fitness.

But, in terms of getting success when he is on the pitch, Bale’s role may have to change. He has predominantly played on the right-wing in his career in an attempt to pin up against the opposition left-back.

However, without his blistering pace, he has struggled to directly effect games.

So, maybe a central role would suit him. He still has his technical ability, great vision and a left-foot that can cause some danger.

But, would you deploy him behind Kane so he could link play within the lines, or push him even more advanced so Kane can carry out his new hybrid 10 role?

He could become a potent goalscorer, as he as proved he can sniff out opportunities in the box. The only issue that he faces is his defensive work rate.

Especially out wide, in this system, a lot is asked of the players to defend as a unit. You wouldn’t necessarily say that Bale 2.0 is suited to that.

So, something has to change for Bale’s return to be a success. But with plenty of games coming – with Spurs still in four competitions – he will get his chance to make this a happy reunion.

Just how and where are the questions that Bale himself will have to answer.

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