What’s The Matter With … Theo Walcott compared to Gareth Bale?
Two players that both came through the Southampton system and have both headed to north London for big money, but have enjoyed contrasting levels of success since.
Virtually since running Maicon ragged with his virtuoso hat-trick against Inter Milan at the San Siro, Gareth Bale’s reputation has been sky high.
In contrast, ask most people and Theo Walcott has not lived up to his potential, still having electric pace, but no end product.
Parts of this may be fair, but basing arguments on this season, the answer to the headline question is nothing and in fact, Walcott has been more of a contributor than Bale.
Walcott no doubt can be frustrating in the wide areas, but over the past two seasons he has become a more all round attacking threat.
Given that defenders prefer to drop off to prevent him running in behind, Walcott has taken advantage of his extra space for crossing, while his runs are not as predictable as they once were.
Despite his supposed weaknesses, Walcott has contributed 17 goals and 11 assists this season from 27 appearances.
Ask anyone who they would rather have in their team of the pair and Bale would be the natural answer, it could even be added that he is widely considered the best left midfielder in world football at present.
But his record in the current campaign is less impressive than that of Walcott, as his 24 Spurs appearances have yielded just 11 goals and five assists.
The big problem is that he hasn’t adapted in the way Walcott has.
Bale is now finding himself up against deeper full-backs and is often doubled-up on by opposition, as Manchester United did in the recent draw with Phil Jones drifting across from central midfield to aid Rafael.
This has prevented Bale using his chief attribute of dribbling at players and beating them down the outside.
Harry Redknapp tried playing him as a central playmaker for large parts of last season, but that didn’t work as it prevented Bale from utilising his dribbling assets.
Andre Villas-Boas has alternatively attempted to start Bale from the left and allow him to drift into the penalty box unmarked, which has worked at times.
Bale has not adapted his game in the same way Walcott has and his assist record across all of his time at Spurs is way below what is expected from a player of his reputation, too often struggling to pick out teammates in the box.
Looking at their entire contributions this season, there is certainly a case that Walcott remains underrated and Bale overrated and the Spurs man has some improvements to make to live up to the buzz that he has previously created, rather than Walcott.