George Burley, former Southampton manager
This article is written in the light of former Southampton manager George Burley’s statement that he has always thought that Gareth Bale had greater potential than Theo Walcott. It surprised me that Mr. Burley said this after Bale struck into his present great form. Therefore, I compare the former Southampton talents to each other to see who has performed at a more advanced level. George Burley also said that Gareth Bale benefitted from staying longer at Southampton. The analysis also aims to discover whether Bale has indeed benefitted from staying at Southampton, or if it is more beneficial to develop at a bigger club, as Walcott did following his move to Arsenal.
Bale and Walcott, both born in 1989, are products of the Southampton F.C. Academy. At 16 years and 143 days old, Theo Walcott became the youngest player ever to appear for the Saints. Gareth Bale became the second youngest player to appear for the club, at 16 years and 275 days. The two players decided to join two rival teams, with Walcott transferring to Arsenal on 20 January 2006, and Bale joining their North London rivals Tottenham on 25 May 2007.
The first table looks at football goals and assist contribution. The 2008/2009 season was a bit slow for both players and difficult to compare as Bale played left back. The 2009/2010 season was a silent season for Walcott as he was hit by injuries. Bale on the other hand enjoyed a good last half of the season and was named Barclays Player of the Month for April.
2010/2011 was a breakthrough season for both, as Bale became a regular left winger and Walcott had a great season contributing to the production of 16 goals (goals+assists). In the season 2011/2012 Bale scored 9 goals and had 10 assist whilst Walcott enjoyed another good season contributing to the production of 16 goals. This season Bale has scored 16 goals already and Walcott 11: a new record for the both of them. Walcott has 9 assist and has contributed to 20 goals compared to Bale’s 18. Bale only has 2 assists this season achieving his second in yesterday’s match against Liverpool. Before that game it was 16 hours & 17 minutes since he last assisted a Premier League goal (since Nov 28th 2012).
This table breaks the goals and goal contribution by minutes to make it more comparable. The table shows that Walcott has a better minute per goal ratio, despite this current season. When it comes to minute per goal contribution Bale has the best stats in season 2009/2010 and 2011/2012. Despite Bale’s great goal form this present season Walcott contributes to a goal every 83 minutes, whilst Bale does it every 122 minutes. Since the 2009/2010 season Bale averages a minute per goal contribution every 203 minutes, whilst Walcott averages a goal contribution every 147.
This next graph shows that Bale actually creates a lot more chances than Walcott. This stands in contrast to what we saw earlier, namely that Bale has fewer assists. It is difficult to explain why Bale (given that he creates a lot of chances) only has a few assists. Since 2009/2010 Bale has created a chance every 42 minutes, while Walcott, over the same period, creates a chance every 62 minutes. On the left side of the axis you see the Clear Cut Chances Created (CCC) per minute. This graph shows that, despite Bale creating more chances, Walcott creates more CCC per minute. None of the two provided any CCC in season 2008/2009 and 2009/2010.
This graph shows how many shots each of the two uses to score a goal. There is a clear tendency for Walcott to make fewer shots per goal. Since the season of 2009/2010 Bale averages a goal every 11 shots, while Walcott averages a goal every 8,5 shots. This graph shows that if Walcott did shoot as much as Bale he would at least score as many goals. I have also included the Clear Cut Chance Conversion % (CCC %) statistic into the graph. This shows that there is a tendency that their CCC % is rising and that their shots per goal is decreasing. There are no Clear Cut Chances for any of them in season 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 while Bale actually missed 7 Clear Cut Chances in the 2010/2011 season (his CCC % is 0). The graph shows that there is a clear tendency that both of them are converting a much higher % of their Clear Cut Chances.
This graph shows the accurate crosses of Bale and Walcott in %. This definitely shows that Bale is more accurate at crossing than Walcott. This may imply that Bale is more of a winger than Walcott. This could possible explain why Bale is creating more chances. Despite being a poorer crosser Walcott still has more assists than Bale.
The graph shows the dribbling accuracy in %. What is interesting is that Bale seems more consistent in his dribbling accuracy. Walcott has a lot more variation in this area, which seems too drift dramatically each season.
As this analysis relies heavily on historical data it is difficult to say something about the future. Despite this there have been some clear tendencies throughout the analysis. Bale has been in-form this 2012/2013 season, but Walcott has not been far behind. Bale has scored more goals but he also played more games, where Walcott contributes more in terms of goal production than Bale. Some might say that Bale has been more single-minded this season. Bale creates more chances than Walcott but Walcott creates Clear Cut Chances more often than Bale. Bale attempts more shots per goal than Walcott but this season Bale has a higher Clear Cut Chances Conversion % than Walcott, which might explain the many goals Bale has scored. The final two graphs compare the accuracy of crosses and dribbling. Both graphs shows that Bale dominates that Walcott’s dribbling accuracy is very volatile.
I cannot tell you who is going to be the best of these two. I can only say that Walcott should shoot more if he wants to be an EPL top scorer and that Bale maybe should think about making some more assists. Nevertheless, the analysis shows that both of them have great potential to become world beaters.
- Good Read
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