Should Gareth Bale play as a striker?

Tottenham Hotspur head into one of the most crucial periods in their season with something of a striker crisis.

First-choice forward Jermaine Defoe was withdrawn by Andre Villas-Boas as his side beat West Brom 1-0 last weekend. Defoe’s ankle injury has now been assessed and he will without doubt miss England’s friendly with Brazil in midweek and potentially a couple of weeks for Spurs while he recovers.

Currently Emmanuel Adebayor is at the African Cup of Nations with Togo but is expected to return imminently which will boost his manager’s confidence and options.

However, one solution which has yet to be mooted is the potential option of playing Gareth Bale up front. Bale scored the winning goal against West Brom in the 67th minute and is undoubtedly Spurs’ best and most well-rounded player since the departure of Luka Modric to Real Madrid.

Bale has been compared to a young Cristiano Ronaldo and, whilst he’s not quite at the level of the Ballon d’Or runner-up, he certainly has the technical ability and the finishing to make more than a half-decent go of it as a forward.

Having been brought into the Spurs first-team as a left-back under Harry Redknapp, Bale’s remarkable skill, pace, and drive forced Redknapp to convert him into a left-sided winger where he has impressed and improved ever since.

Bale also loves to run at defenders, and is one of the most dangerous threats when he cuts inside with the ball at his feet. Very few defenders can match him physically with his strength and pace and his footwork is very nearly world-class.

The young Welshman has netted 13 goals in 28 appearances so far this season and looks set to surpass his tally from last term, his best yet, with 12 goals in all competitions.

13 goals in 28 games is the kind of goals to games ratio that any striker worth his salt would be pleased with yet Bale has the added disadvantage of being tasked with tracking and chasing back on the wing.

I wonder whether Villas-Boas has considered converting Bale again – this time to cover as a striker. I have no doubt he would be up to the task. His finishing and shots on target stats are on par with the Premier League’s best forwards.

There might be a suggestion that moving their star flair player would create an imbalance in a team that has been developing chemistry and understanding very well this season under a new manager with a number of new signings, and some notable departures.

However, with the arrival in January of Lewis Holtby, the Portuguese manager now has some interesting options who could play on the left flanks, should

Bale move inside – both Holtby and summer signing Clint Dempsey are capable of playing that position to keep the balance of Aaron Lennon’s pace and drive on the right flank.

Should Adebayor return jaded in any way or should he lack form or fitness, I just wonder whether we might see Bale move centrally. I, for one, would be intrigued to see what he could do there.

image: © Jan S0L0

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