How Do You Solve a Problem Like Gareth Bale?
By Alex Fairchild
Gareth Bale has scored 10 goals in his last 8 matches. His blistering pace has seen him take down Lyon, Arsenal, and Inter. As it stands, nobody can stop the Spurs winger. Gareth Bale is the man of the moment in world football.
His blazing runs forward and forays to the middle of the pitch have saw pundits compare him to Cristiano Ronaldo, a player who may be one of the great physical specimens to walk the planet.
Tottenham Hotspur will struggle to keep their star man come this summer and Ronaldo's team are amongst his suitors. But, how would Bale fit into to Real Madrid's starting XI?
If they hold their 4-2-3-1 shape next year, there is no place for him. Starting at the back, he would face competition from established squad members, including Alvaro Arbeloa, Fabio Coentrao, the world's most expensive left back, and Marcelo.
In the midfield, he would have to compete with the attacking three of Di Maria, Ozil, and the Portuguese. Could he play as a center striker? Perhaps, but there is no doubt that Karem Benzema is better suited for that role. Would Bale want to serve as an auxiliary player or serve play for a full 90 minutes every week?
The latter of course. In addition, his ex-Spurs teammate Luka Modric already tried hopping from North London to Madrid and barring his goal against United from Wednesday night, little has been put on offer by the Croatian. Granted, Modric had the near impossible task of replacing the pivot of Madrid's attack in Mesut Ozil.
Let's say Bale replaces Coentrao on the left. As an attacker, it may be hard for him to play with the man to whom he looks up. Having two of a kind ove
rloading a flank may open up Di Maria or Higuain on the right, but it is more likely that the two wing-types would begin to trip over each other. This is the economic equivalent of having 'too many cooks in the kitchen' - the point at which the cost of having one more Ronaldo becomes negative. In addition, the idea of the attacking full-back tends to work best in a narrow formation.
In Liverpool's new found 4-3-3, Glen Johnson has been a standout. Though he has done so in past years in a 4-4-2, it is safe to say he has had more influence on play this year, which may also steam from the confidence he came off of from his praised performance at Euro 2012. Barcelona have a similar setup, as Jordi Alba and Dani Alves run the length of the pitch for their side, having nobody in their way, with so many players who naturally fit in the middle on Tito Villanova's team sheet. Pushing up the left side of the pitch, to perhaps replace Ronaldo in the starting XI would be heresy.
A young Bale would never be able to unseat the 28 year old from his throne at his current age, nor would a man in his career's peak allow him to do so. With that option out, let's look towards the middle of the pitch, where Mesut Ozil ponders about the center, making plays. Each week, the German must brush aside threats from Bale's former teammate, Modric, and Kaka, who have made a living off something Bale is just getting used to doing.
The Welshman could take to playing on the right of the pitch as an inverted winger. Cutting in the from the left and shooting could prove an effective style for Bale. He has a cannon of a left foot - see his winner against West Ham or bullet volley against Stoke from August 2010. However, both those goals have come from the left. Shooting from a more favorable position at Madrid could help Bale put more away, but that may not be his game, as his crosses are crisp, sliding across the surface at blistering pace to the foot of a teammate. On the right side, those delicious balls would cease to exist.
Gareth Bale has also been spotted in a forward position. He played as a striker against Inter Milan, in last week's Europa League match, sitting to the right of Jermain Defoe in Spurs' rigid defensive shape. However, Karem Benzema has that spot covered for Madrid and has two Argentines to back him up if need be.
So, where would Gareth Bale fit in at Real Madrid? The bench. It would be hard for Bale to become a fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu, thus it may suit him best to stay at Tottenham. Andre Villas Boas is the right man for that club, as they seem a glamorous North London side. Signing Jan Vertonghen and Lewis Holtby, whilst stealing Fulham's midfield, should provide a bright future for those who 'Dare to Do.' However, AVB wasted the January transfer window, failing to bring in and out-and-out striker. Emmanuel Adebayor and Defoe have been injury prone. The two are 29 and 30 respectively, but they don't seem to fit the mold for this particular team. They may have another 2 years in them, but Spurs need a hardy, long-term replacement for the seniors.
For Bale to stay at Spurs, someone for him to play off of must be on the shortlist for the White Heart Lane club. Champions League football has to be on the fixture list as well, as a man compared to one of the game's best attacking footballers cannot be left laboring in the Europa League. Spurs qualified for the UCL last season, but were displaced by the Kings of Europe, Chelsea. At one point last season, they were in the position to win the league, though that opportunity was soon squandered.
With 10 games to play in the Premier League, Spurs are in an advantageous position to take a spot in the world's most prestigious club competition, as they sit 7 points ahead of rivals Arsenal, who currently reside in 5th. Tottenham have a player in the form of his life and only time will tell whether or not he stays in England. For Spurs to continue their dramatic surge to the Premier League's Sky Six, they will need Bale, a man who has lit the EPL ablaze.