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The Lead

Gareth Bale is once again turning heads in the Premier League and now Europe following Spurs’ 2-1 defeat of Lyon in the Europa League yesterday evening. Andre Villas-Boas went so far as to mention the R-word:

“He’s incredible,” Villas-Boas said. “Not only his all-round game but this ability that he has to strike these free-kicks. The ball gains so much power when he strikes it and it changes direction very easily. Today we saw not only two great moments but three, because their goal was absolutely fantastic too. Gareth was fantastic.”

Villas-Boas claimed that comparisons to Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo were appropriate and admitted there is now a sense of expectation whenever Bale is standing over a set piece.

Asked if the Welshman was comparable to Ronaldo, he said: “Yes, he’s going through a great individual moment, scoring lots of goals for the team.

This led to an impromptu bit of Twitter theory:


I ran the numbers in the Premier League, comparing Tottenham’s total shots ratio (a measure of dominance) to their total shots ratio without Gareth Bale in the squad. Tottenham’s TSR is an impressive .644. That’s historically commensurate with a top four finish.

Their TSR in the four games without Bale in the side was .666. This is right on the cusp of any predictive strength, but Spurs maintained that number in matches against Chelsea, Everton, Swansea and Reading, a pretty good mix of skilled sides. Their TSR exclusively with Bale? .643.

The shooting percentage however does provide a unique point of interest. Spurs total shot percentage is an impressive (and perhaps unsustainable) 20%. In those four matches without Bale, it dropped to a still considerable 13%. With Bale, Spurs shooting percentage is 22%.

We need to be very careful in interpreting these numbers, but on the question of how good a side Spurs are as a whole without Bale, it’s a yes. It’s also possible Bale could be helping to drive the team’s shooting percentage. Spurs have an unnaturally low save percentage this season, keeping their PDO low, but their shooting is keeping them in the top four.

Interpreted that way, one might make the case Bale has been essential in overcoming a low save percentage and keeping them in the top four. But the team as a whole is still very, very good without him.

England

The player United refuse to let go.

Scholes out for another two weeks.

Birmingham’s coach disgusted with Zigic’s training session, drops player for Watford game.

Celtic coach wants Uefa to clarify Juve’s fouls on set pieces.

Italy

Milito sidelined for rest of the season, Inter won’t find a replacement.

Milan’s coach Allegri has high hopes for Balotelli.

Germany

Schalke hit another blow, Uchida injured and will miss first first leg of last 16 in CL.

Gomez‘s agent insists player staying at Bayern.

La Liga

Financial woes hit broadcaster, some clubs to face cut in TV income.

Barca miss coach Vilanova.

Bit and Bobs

Ronaldo continues to display his sculpted body, instragrams his recent weight loss.

James Richardson reviews the European papers.

Thanks to Alima Hotakie for compiling today’s links.