Gareth Bale may be injured for a while but that doesn’t change the fact that he should not be played as a number 10 at Real Madrid.
Real Madrid will play Granada tonight (who will be without Ruben Perez which leaves them with only Franc Rico to make any kind of impact against Real Madrid. Granada’s coach would disagree I am sure) and Real Madrid will be without Bale amongst a host of other players.
Benitez needs not worry about the starting lineup (or more specifically starting positions) against Granada tonight, but he would do well if he starts to think hard about Gareth Bale conundrum at Real Madrid.
Granada got beat by 9-1 last time these two sides met and no prizes for guessing that Ronaldo scored a historic five goals in the same match.
Logic would dictate this match to be a straightforward affair and Gareth Bale’s absence would not make any difference to the final scoreline, if everything goes to plan.
But is it the end of it?
Gareth Bale has been playing well since the start of the season in a more central, free, role for Real Madrid. He has scored some fantastic goals, he has been involved in lots of goals and has been performing the way he should have last season as well. So what’s the problem then?
The problem is that Real Madrid has not been tested so far. Real Madrid has played:
- Shakhtar Donetsk
- Real Betis
- Sporting Gijon
None of those sides have the quality to even push this Real Madrid team into 2nd gear, let alone work them to get some sort of a result.
Many experts have expressed their views on how playing Bale basically restricts him (regardless of what Bale thinks of his best position) in a manner which lays waste to his two biggest assets. His speed and his crossing ability.
Bale might be influential in the midfield against teams whose squads cost less than Gareth Bale’s annual pay but against elite teams like Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Chelsea, Manchester United, Juventus etc etc, he would suffocate.
Against teams who are there to win and not to simply collect a paycheck, Gareth Bale would be nullified with ease because Bale doesn’t have the touch, wherewithal or a lethal finish which would make him effective against superior teams.
But that’s not the whole problem. There are a host of other reasons why Bale should not be played behind the striker, in a central role.
Some of those are:
- As brought up before, Bale has speed and a central attacking position doesn’t allow speed. Bale would be out of space in a jiffy against teams that know how to defend.
Which would nullify his greatest weapon.
- Bale’s game is built for the wings. He has a good cross on him. He has the strength and the dribbling skills to go past players on the flanks and rip a ball into the area for Ronaldo and Benzema to get a head on. Playing Bale anywhere else, would make him a substantially less effective player.
Some might argue that Bale has got a lot of pace, why can’t he be successful in the midfield where teams need quick players. Well, the simple answer to that is, teams don’t need quick players in the midfield. Teams need players who are light on their feet, agile and flexible in their midfield and especially behind the striker where there is always a lack of space to maneuver. Bale is too big and a bit too awkward to be playing in such a delicate position. His technique on the ball is raw and brutish, which is perfect for the wings but not for the number 10 position.
- Bale doesn’t have the finesse neither a killer pass which makes a playmaker potent on the field behind the striker. Playing Bale at a post where he would be constantly surrounding by opponents just vitiates his biggest resource. His unmatched speed.
Playing Bale in a spot which doesn’t suit his strength points would only weaken his overall gameplay. Sort of a double whammy in the negative sense. Because, for one, he wouldn’t be effective in the midfield, try as he might. And two, it would erode away his skills on the wings because of lack of play time in that environment.
- Playing Bale in the advanced midfield role also inhibits other equally talented players abilities like of James, Isco and Kovacic.
They have to make way for the 100 million pound man and play on the wings where their potential would never be actualized. James and Isco would be twice as effective as they are now for Real Madrid if they play behind the striker, which is their natural position.
Why Benitez would agree to such an arrangement where he had to sacrifice two world class players for one ‘a little above’ world class player is above me.
Benitez needs to take Bale out of the midfield and into the wings. Either wing would do.
Ronaldo doesn’t seem to mind playing on both wings intermittently in a single game so why should Bale be any different.
Benitez can feel good about himself now that Bale is hammering tier 2 teams but a time will come when he would have to put the Welshman behind the striker against teams that would roll over you if you let them.
That will be the time when Benitez would fully grasp the extent of his misstep.
Real Madrid did not lose the title last year because it couldn’t beat the best teams (Real Madrid beat treble winning Barcelona at Bernabeu last season and gave them a good fight at Camp Nou as well which finished 1-2 in favor of Barcelona after a lucky, but expertly taken, Suarez goal) last season.
Real Madrid lost the titles because it could accommodate great players in their natural positions (and also because Ancelotti’s policy of using his substitutes poorly lead to a lot of injuries at critical moments).
The sooner Benitez realises that he needs to play Bale (and Ronaldo, if by some bizarre insightfulness Benitez decides to switch the two instead of playing both on the wings) on the flanks for his own good (and the team’s), the better it will be for Real Madrid in terms of cohesion and harmony amongst players on the pitch.
Photo by mag3737