When Real Madrid acquired Gareth Bale nearly three season ago, he boasted multiple astounding attributes that made him one of the most feared players in Europe. However, one of those wasn't his aerial ability. In the Welshman's final season with Tottenham, he scored just one headed goal.
Fast forward to now, Bale is lethal in the air.
Gareth Bale: Has now scored more headed goals (9) than 68 of the 98 teams in Europe’s top 5 leagues this season— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) April 30, 2016
Bale has made a habit this season of finding space in the box and claiming the territory. Even his first two seasons with Madrid, he only scored three headed goals in over 40 La Liga games combined.
This season, the Welshman has scored nine times (47 percent of his league goals) with his head. The tally is staggeringly more than anyone else in La Liga as three players follow with five headed goals (Cristiano Ronaldo, Aduriz, Ruben Castro).
Bale's improved aerial ability adds another dimension to his game and an extra element to Real Madrid's attack. While their counterparts over on the Catalan coast are known for their tiki-taka play, Los Blancos can manufacture opportunities simply by crossing the ball into the box.
GOAAAAAL! @GarethBale11 leaps over the defense and bags in the opener. #LaLiga #RSOvRMA https://t.co/6v5CvIWXD4— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) April 30, 2016
Against Real Sociedad for example, Real Madrid carried a nil-nil scoreline nearly into the 80th minute and needed a win to stay alive in the title race. A simple ball played out to Lucas Vazquez resulted in a cross into the mixer.
Real Madrid didn't dominate the area. Other than Bale, not a single aerial threat was present in the box. However, Bale's sense of urgency and newly acclaimed aerial dominance overpowered Real Sociedad's defense, specifically Aritz Elustondo.
Bale's added attacking attribute puts extra pressure on any defense because as long as the Welshman is in the box, he's a threat to score.