Watching Gareth Bale yesterday reminded of me of a stage that small children get as the begin to try and take control of their world. A sense of ownership and determination can be fascinating to watch as they emerge from being completely dependent and defiantly utter the words, ‘I can do it myself!’.
What usually ensues in such instances is something like the removal of a vest not by pulling it off over the head, but climbing out of it as if it were a dress. An ambitious routine that might take – minus a shoulder dislocation, falling into a TV set or home aquarium – up to ten minutes to execute a simple 10 second task.
You can’t complain of course. Everyone wants their kids to think, challenge, try things for themselves, learn and in an ideal world dress themselves sooner rather than later.
Bale was in the Telegraph on Saturday. Yesterday I called the piece ‘terrifying’. Here are some particularly chilling quotes.
“I need to improve myself as a player and I spoke to the coaches at Tottenham about it,” he says. “Being stuck outside is not good all the time. You need to mix your game up and give the opposition things to think about. It’s one of those things I wanted to do and I’m starting to do it.”
“It got to the stage last year when I was standing out on the wing, playing well, with a lot of freedom, hurting teams and being targeted by defences. So it was a case of some teams putting two players on me, staying really tight and trying to mark me out of the game, which is quite easy to do when you’re stood right out there with not much room.
“So I’ve had to adapt my game. The full-back can’t follow you inside and strikers occupy the centre-backs, so it gives you that bit of space. It’s not easy. It’s a lot tighter in the middle but if you get into lots of pockets and you’re able to turn and run at defenders it’s just as good as being out on the wing”
What we got of course was effectively an unmitigated car crash. Bale goes inside. In his head, I am convinced he’s intent upon focusing his blistering pace down the middle. In his head he’s already shaken off those nasty defenders that want to double up on him out on the wing.
In reality, outside of his head he found himself in an area congested by not only his own team mates, but their opposition counterparts who either took the ball off him with no more than the poke of a toe or he is forced into a short, largely redundant pass.
The knock on effect of Bale being in the middle was equally surreal.
With arguably one of the best players in the country safely out of position we are then treated to BAE morphing into A&E with some of the worst crossing since The Cassandra Crossing. The knives were out for Benny. I lost count of the substandard scuffs he under hit into Man City shins.
How many balls crossed in by Bale himself would have resulted in threats on goal? My rough estimate would have to be, ‘lots’.
Is this playing to our strengths? Is this arrogance? Is Arry so wrapped up in his court case that he’s given up managing his players and letting them dictate how we play?
And my fear is that the goal – in Gareth’s head – justified the means. The ‘look at me, look at me, Christ is risen.’ style celebration left me feeling a little uncomfortable. He didn’t lift up his shirt to reveal a vest baring the words, ‘I can do it myself!.’ but I’m sure I heard him thinking it.