Tottenham chase Belgian winger - Bale to play central?

Gareth Bale

Tottenham are reportedly chasing highly-rated FC Twente attacker Nacer Chadli this summer as manager Andre Villas-Boas looks to bolster his attacking options.

The 23-year-old Belgian operates predominantly as a left-sided winger (although he can switch to the right flank if required). For a fee of around £7 million, Villas-Boas could have himself a promising young player who managed a tally of 18 goals and 12 assists across all competitions this season.

Spurs have reportedly emerged as ‘frontrunners’ to capture Chadli who could be the ideal candidate to replace Gareth Bale – on the left side wing, of course – enabling the Welshman to move to a more centralized attacking midfield role in order than he can have an even greater impact on Spurs’ play.

Bale began his Spurs career as a left-back under Harry Redknapp but it soon became apparent his talents warranted a more attacking role and now, after scoring an incredible 26 goals in all competitions last term, earning himself the PFA Player of the Year award, he will be looking to improve on what is already a world-class talent level.

His reasoning supposedly for remaining at White Hart Lane is that he wants to continue to develop under one of the most well regarded managers in the sport and Villas-Boas will be keen, subsequently, to enable him to do just that – it’s a win-win situation for the manager and the player.

Bale was deployed on occasion as a central attacking midfielder this term to good effect – most notably in Tottenham’s 2-1 victory over North London rivals Arsenal at White Hart Lane.

In that game, for example, Bale and Aaron Lennon on the right flank combined to great effect – both pacey and intelligent in their movement on and off the ball. With players like Lewis Holtby, Moussa Dembele, Gylfi Sigurdsson and the new addition of Paulinho in behind Bale, what he ideally needs to improve is to adapt his positional awareness to that of a trequartista.

Lionel Messi is the most apt example of a trequartista at Barcelona along with teammate Cesc Fabregas on occasions when he plays a false 9 – players with exceptional and oftentimes superior technical skill are most dangerous in that position.

It allows them to both dictate the tempo of the game from an attacking perspective, to feed that final pass through to a striker in front of them or to work their way into the box themselves by skill or stealth to finish the move off themselves.

A player as immensely gifted as Gareth Bale needs desperately to test himself more often in that free role - he is the most talented player in the team, he’s the magic, and having him out on the flank restricts his impact.

Bringing him in off the flank (as he often does in a game himself when he drifts in anyway) as the manager started to opt for this term means he can’t be isolated or blocked off as easily – he can’t be forced into the corner flag.

Where he will need to improve will be his awareness of space – when he’s deployed on the wing, if he gets past his marker, he’s often got a lot more space to run into before he reaches a wall of defenders coming at him. In effectively a number 10 role, he’s not going to be granted as much space and he’s going to be closed down much earlier – this is where the improvement part comes in.

Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo both did it – it’s almost like a right of passage for a player of such talent. If you can prove yourself on the flank then do the same through the middle with less time and space. For a player like Bale, the incoming of a player on the left flank (whether it’s Nacer Chadli or not, ultimately) is exactly what he needs to become the next Ronaldo or Messi.

He needs to be challenged to improve – that’s what he’s been doing so far: adapting his game to different positions in order to gain a higher understanding of how to read the game.

image: © Jan S0L0

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