What Tottenham is Looking for from Gareth Bale Sunday

Jul 26, 2019; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; forward Gareth Bale (11) Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 26, 2019; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; forward Gareth Bale (11) Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /
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Gareth Bale
Jul 26, 2019; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; forward Gareth Bale (11) Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

What Tottenham Want to See from Bale

If Gareth Bale is only going to play for some 30-odd minutes, that really is not a huge amount of time to put one’s imprint on the game, but it should be enough. Whether or not Gareth Bale scores, assists, or even makes the highlight real is not as relevant as seeing some of the trademark skills Tottenham are betting have not eroded. We know what makes him special, so what can he do to show us he still is?

Bale’s Speed

Gareth Bale is fast, like Kyle Walker fast, fastest player in the league fast. Or at least he, like Walker were fast like that. While Bale does not need to the be the outright fastest player in the league anymore, he does need to demonstrate he has that sixth gear only those with elite speed have.

It could be running back to catch an attacker on defense. It could be chasing down a longball that looked like it might go out of play. It could be Bale poking the ball past his defender in space and then running around him to get the ball and advance.

In the perfect world Bale might do all three and show off his speed, but as a fan I will settle for any one of them. The idea is not so much to make a big play, rather to demonstrate he still has that burst, which causes defenders to back off him and opens so much else in his game. Further, that vertical threat over the top – added to what Son already brings in that area – will give opposing coaches a lot to think about not called Harry Kane.

Bale’s Ball Striking and Touch

Speed is nothing if you cannot control the ball. Part of what makes Gareth Bale so dangerous is his ability to bring the ball under control at his feet and his options once he does so. Bale’s left foot is at times simply magical.

Whether striking a corner kick with the right verve, a free kick with the right bend, or a shot with the right pace or touch, Bale’s left foot is amazing. For most good footballers, the touch to bring a ball in and hit it exactly right is not really something you lose. Does anyone think David Beckham could not bend a ball around a wall right now? My guess is Bale still has a lot of thunder in that boot of his and it will be nice to see it unleashed in some way.

Gareth Bale in the Air

For all that Steven Bergwijn, Lucas Moura, and Heung-Min Son bring to the Tottenham attack, aerial prowess would not be high on the list for any of them. It is not that they are terrible in the air, they are just not built for winning high balls in the box or flicking punts on to runners. Heck they are the runners. Well Gareth Bale is both.

Not only has Harry Kane been the only Spurs striker since Fernando Llorente left after the Champions League final. Kane has also been the only real aerial target for Tottenham. That is a lot of pressure and stress on an attacker. Whose head are the wingers looking for, Kane’s; whose head is Lloris looking for on punts, Kane’s.

Gareth Bale takes some of the over the top pressure off Son and Bergwijn, just as he takes some of the target pressure off Harry Kane. Now Kane can look to run off Bale on a big, quick punt. Now Doherty or Aurier have two big targets to look for in the box. Whether head high, volley height, or behind him; Gareth Bale has shown the ability to use his feet and head to put the ball on target from the air with impeccable timing and accuracy.

So, when it comes to watching Gareth Bale on Sunday, keep your expectations in check. If he does not start and go 90 minutes, that is probably a good thing. If he does not have a hat trick and 4 assists, that is okay. If he does not score at all that can be okay too. If Spurs win and Bale shows he has the speed, touch, and timing to get back near the top of his game, Tottenham will see enough and so likely will the rest of the league.