What is Bale’s X-Factor?

Shots on goal are the key to justifying Gareth Bale's transfer fee

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Is Gareth Bale  worth anywhere near €100m Real Madrid paid for him? That’s a very complicated question that we will hardly able to answer after his first few games for the Spanish giants. However, it is worth to speculate on why the richest team in the world, saw in Bale.

Despite being a very effective player for Tottenham, Bale definitely wasn’t the best attacker or even winger in the Premier League. According to football analysis group SportsMatrix, Bale had an average of 42.2 build-up plays per game, which is slightly higher than the average winger (39.1). He also created 3.4 chances per game, while the Premier League average for wingers was 2.5 chances per game. There were several more effective wingers/attacking midfielders in these categories – Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla created twice as many chances for example.

Bale has manufactured about as many dangerous situations as the average Premier League winger (His 10.9 per game are pretty close to the league’s average of 9.5), but his success rate at creating chances and the quality of the scoring opportunities he created placed him at the top-10 among Premier League wingers.

Bale had 6.2 chance creation attempts per game (league average was 5.2), and he successfully created 1.7 clear-cut chances every match (league average was 1.2). These are not spectacular numbers, by the way – Eden Hazard had 8 chance creation attempts per game, and has created 2.8 clear-cut chances per game.

While Gareth Bale’s high dribbling success rate saw him finish in the top-5 in the Premier League (45% success rate, while the league average was 40%), it’s probably not the reason why Real Madrid decided to splash so much cash for his services.

The boy can shoot

So what exactly is Gareth Bale’s “X-factor”? Perhaps it’s his ability to create more scoring attempts for himself.

Bale had more scoring attempts than any other winger in the Premier League. In fact he almost doubled the league average (2.3 per game), with 4.1 attempts per match. Bale’s attempts were quality shots, too. 50% of his shots were on goal, while the league average was much lower – 35%.

In comparison, Theo Walcott has had 2.9 scoring attempts per match, and his shots on goal percentage was 35% (just like the league average). Another interesting Bale statistic is that only 15% of his shots were blocked by opposing defenders, while the average Premier League winger had his shots blocked on a 26% rate.

To sum it all up, Gareth Bale’s performances last season were better in every category than the average Premier League winger. He finished in the top-10 in almost every statistic. According to the people in SportsMatrix, “Gareth Bale’s X-factor, the thing that probably made him such an expensive player, is his ability to threaten the opposition’s goal. Not only was he the best winger in the scoring attempts category, he was also one of the top players in the entire Premier League. That’s including the players who are put on the pitch mainly to make scoring attempts – strikers”.

Take Robin van Persie for example: Manchester United’s star striker has had 3.7 scoring attempts per game – slightly less than Bale’s 4.1 average. The Dutch international scored 0.6 goals per match, and Bale has him beaten in that category as well, with a rate of 0.8 goals per match. This means that 16% of van Persie’s shots ended up in the back of the net, while Bale’s shots did that 19% of the time. So on average, Gareth Bale scored once every 5 shots. If his creative teammates at Real Madrid – Ronaldo, Isco, di María – will give him the opportunities to keep shooting like he did at Tottenham, he just might justify his transfer fee.

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