Gareth Bale is poised for his eagerly anticipated Tottenham Hotspur return in what would be his first Premier League appearance in 2,710 days against West Ham United on Sunday.
Returning from Real Madrid as a four-time Champions League winner, Wales forward Bale could line up alongside England captain Harry Kane and South Korea’s Son Heung-min in a star-studded Spurs attack.
A knee injury has kept Britain’s most expensive player out of contention since completing a season-long loan move back to north London in September, following a turbulent period at the Bernabeu.
But, with his return to action imminent, Tottenham fans can be forgiven for feeling rather excited about manager Jose Mourinho’s new front three – one with the potential to be the deadliest in the Premier League.
Bale set to link up with in-form duo
Though his ability has been proven on football’s biggest stages, an obvious issue with analysing the impact Bale could have on Tottenham’s attack is his lack of playing time under Real manager Zinedine Zidane last season.
Bale, 31, played just 1,091 league minutes over 16 matches as Real won La Liga.
He scored twice and made two assists but, despite his recent record, Bale averaged a goal every 156 minutes over seven La Liga seasons.
A return to the form which saw him score 21 Premier League goals in 2012-13 and earn a then world record £85m move to Real should be made easier by linking up with two players who have started the 2020-21 campaign in frightening form.
Bale’s tally was worth 24 points to Spurs in 2012-13, with only three players in the history of the Premier League seeing their goals worth more points in a season.
|Robin van Persie||Man Utd||2012-13||26||27|
|Robin van Persie||Arsenal||2011-12||30||24|
Between them, Kane and Son have scored 38 times in the Premier League since the start of last season and assisted a further 19 in their respective 33 and 34 appearances.
They are also linking up superbly, with Kane becoming the first player in Premier League history to assist four times in a single game as Son ran riot against Southampton.
The duo have combined for more Premier League goals than any other pairing in the competition since Son’s move to England in August 2015 and, with nine goals and seven assists between them in four games already this season, there’s perhaps currently no better attack to help Bale settle.
Which attacks set the standard?
Only five players have created more chances in the Premier League than Son (54) since August 2019 – and three of them play for reigning champions Liverpool.
Matching the output of Jurgen Klopp’s devastating trio of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino is a tough ask, but is it now a realistic target for Spurs?
Salah leads the way for the Reds with 24 league goals and 10 assists in that time, closely followed by Mane on 21 goals and seven assists, while Firmino has been involved in 19 goals – scoring nine.
They trail Chelsea’s new-look attack of Tammy Abraham (16), Kai Havertz (12) and Timo Werner (28) by two league goals since the start of last season – the latter two played in the Bundesliga last term – but Liverpool’s trio eclipse Chelsea’s, 81 to 74 in total goal involvements.
It is in the number of chances created where the consistency of Liverpool’s front three stands out. Among the Premier League’s ‘big six’ sides, plus Leicester and Everton, only Arsenal’s Willian (81) – at Chelsea last season – and Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne, with a staggering 150, created more chances than each member of Liverpool’s attack.
City trio Sergio Aguero (16), Raheem Sterling (21) and De Bruyne (14) are three goals behind Liverpool’s front three in that time, and one assist short – with De Bruyne accounting for 21 of City’s 26 assists following his record-breaking haul last season.
In all, Mane (65), Salah (75) and Firmino (59) have created a total of 199 chances for their side since the start of the 2019-20 season – second only to Manchester City’s De Bruyne-inspired total of 222.
Between them, Kane (38) and Son (54) have created 92 chances and registered only two fewer league goal involvements (57) between them than Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood (11), Anthony Martial (23) and Marcus Rashford (25) combined since last summer.
That’s also four and five fewer than the attacks of Leicester (Harvey Barnes, Ayoze Perez, Jamie Vardy) and Arsenal (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Willian) respectively.
New faces to shake things up?
“Bale will not just have a positive effect on his new Tottenham team-mates and give them a massive confidence boost, he will change the way opposition players feel about facing Spurs,” said Match of the Day pundit Danny Murphy, reacting to the Welshman’s return to the Premier League.
But only time will tell just how easily Bale can find his feet again in the Premier League.
Chelsea’s Werner arrived from RB Leipzig for £47m following a 28-goal season – as many as team-mates Abraham and Havertz put together since last August – and made a further eight assists, but he is yet to get off the mark in the Premier League.
Meanwhile, at Goodison, James Rodriguez has hit the ground running for Everton despite just eight appearances and one goal for Real Madrid in La Liga last season.
Similarly to Bale, Rodriguez’s limited opportunities to impress in 2019-20 distorts an impressive 33-goal haul by Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison – and with three goals and two assists in a promising first four Premier League games, the Colombian is on course to make the Toffees’ attack among the competition’s most prolific over the coming months.
Bale, of course, has the additional benefit of previous English top-flight experience, where his 21 goals in his last season were worth 24 additional points for Tottenham – the difference between Spurs’ sixth-placed finish last term and coming second.
And though more recently his time at Real was overshadowed by matters away from the pitch, his record of 120 goal involvements (80 goals and 40 assists) in 171 La Liga games shows a player who retains a sharp eye for goal.
But who do you think currently boasts the Premier League’s most dangerous front three?
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