Premier League English

Gareth Bale making hay after finally hitting form

Wales international Gareth Bale woefully struggled for playing time after returning to Spurs on loan but is now chirpily racking up the goals and assists since hitting form.

Bale’s return to form and fitness at Tottenham has now made him the Premier League’s most effective player within the limited playing time he has had on the pitch since his return to Spurs, with Bale himself admitting he has taken longer than he would have liked to reach top form.

But his goals and assists tally now averages more than one per 90 minutes, remarkably the best rate in the league, with Spurs team-mates Harry Kane and Son Heung-min also rating highly.

The Welsh winger’s recent braces against Burnley and Crystal Palace took Bale to five goals in the Premier League this season, together with a pair of assists along the way as he combined well with Kane and Son in a fearsome front line assault.

Bale’s wait to build up his fitness means he has still played only 501 minutes of league football since returning to north London, giving him an impressive average of 1.26 goals and assists per 90 minutes with this being the most for any player with at least five goals and assists combined. The rest of the top five also augurs well for Spurs.

England captain Harry Kane is the only other player above one per game in the chart on 1.20, lying one goal behind Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot on 16, and leads the league with 13 assists.

Two of those were for Bale on Sunday but many have been for Son, whose assist for Kane’s second against Palace saw the pair break a Premier League record with 14 direct goal combinations – either Son assisting Kane or vice versa – this season. This has eclipsed the mark of 13 set by Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton in Blackburn’s glorious title-winning season of 1994-95.

Son himself ranks fifth with 0.85 goals and assists per 90 while he and Kane remain the most prolific Premier League partnership ever in terms of combined goals per 90 minutes on the field together.

They average 1.26 between them while the other active partnerships on the list – Salah and Sadio Mane, and Manchester City duo Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling – have stagnated recently due to Aguero’s prolonged absence and Liverpool’s poor form.

Salah has been maintaining his own goalscoring form this season, though his current four-game drought in the league shows even he is caught up in the Liverpool slump.

He has added three assists to his league-leading 17 goals for a 0.80 per 90 combined total, ranking sixth in the league and is the Reds’ only representative in the top 10.

Cityzens’ Kevin De Bruyne’s brace in Manchester City’s win over Southampton on Wednesday places him one spot behind in sixth, while a pair of assists helped Phil Foden break into the top 10. Other goalscorers Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan also make the top 20.

Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes ranks third at 0.99 goals and assists per 90, with 16 goals and 10 assists, but Jesse Lingard’s form since leaving Old Trafford on loan has also been appealing.

Lingard has four goals and an assist in only 525 minutes for his temporary employers West Ham, a similar short-term impact to Bale in recent weeks.

United have another representative, Edinson Cavani, at number eight in a top 10 filled out by Newcastle’s injured striker Callum Wilson at nine, with Leicester’s Jamie Vardy and Aston Villa talisman Jack Grealish just outside.