Gareth Bale's 90th minute wondergoal against West Ham on Monday night drew, in amongst the praise, a surprising amount of criticism for Tottenham, with claims abound that Spurs are too reliant on their superstar, with Bale, quite aptly, having bailed them out in each of their last 4 Premier League games. Bale's strikes in those games have won his side no fewer than 10 points, and each one was of his own making, so there is no doubting his importance to the Lilywhites, but there are other players who are just as important in terms of points won in the Premier League this season.
With Spurs' few strikers lacking form and fitness, Bale has been more important to his team than any other player in recent weeks, but only in those games has he overtaken Defoe as Tottenham's top scorer. What is interesting though, is that without Defoe's 9 goals, Spurs would only be 6 points worse off, whereas without Bale's 15 they would have 15 fewer points, so that's a point per Bale goal compared to 0.67 points per Defoe goal. The Welshman's significance cannot be questioned - his goals have won them 31.9% of their total points - but in amongst the talk of Bale being the best player in the league or Spurs being a 'one man team', there are other players whose goals are just as key.
Robin van Persie, the league's top scorer, has been a revelation at Manchester United, of that there is no question. What is so impressive about the Dutchman's 19 goals, though, is that they have earned his side an incredible 22 points in their quest for the title - the most in the league and 7 more than Bale. He scored crucial goals in his first 3 starts for the Red Devils, and has continued in that vain, turning losses and draws into wins left, right and centre to earn united 32.4% of their points. At 1.16 points per goal, his goals are the most valuable in the Premier League.
Meanwhile, without Luis Suarez's 18 goals in the Premier League this season, Liverpool would have only 8 fewer points. That is, despite the fact that he has only scored 1 goal fewer than van Persie, Suarez's goals have been worth 14 fewer points. The Uruguayan has scored goals in big wins over Swansea, Norwich, Sunderland, QPR and Fulham in the last couple of months, without which his side would have still won each game. He has scored goals in important draws with the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton and Man City, but the only game that Liverpool wouldn't have won if it wasn't for Suarez's goals was the 5-2 win at Norwich back in September. In other words, Suarez has only scored a match-winning goal in one league match all season. Of course, he is an incredibly gifted player who plays a crucial role for the Anfield club, but he doesn't step up to the plate with key goals quite as much as van Persie or Bale, and maybe, in the debate over who is the best Premier League player, that fact could play play a key role.
Edin Dzeko's increasing reputation as a 'super sub' for Manchester City may be frustrating the Bosnian sufficiently to drive him out of Eastlands, but that wouldn't be in Roberto Mancini's interests, with Dzeko's 12 league goals this season having won his club 13 of their points. He arguably has his biggest impact when introduced from the bench, and has scored match-winning goals as a substitute against Fulham, West Brom and Tottenham this season, as well as netting key goals against Liverpool, Norwich and Southampton when starting. Without Sergio Aguero's 9 league goals City would have 7 points fewer and without Carlos Tevez's 8 goals they would be just 6 points worse off. Edin Dzeko's importance to the club should not be underestimated.
While the goals of Wayne Rooney (1.3), Christian Benteke (1.1), Steven Fletcher (1) and Adam Le Fondre (1) are all worth at least 1 point per goal, there is a surprise amongst the Premier League's top scorers in that without Michu's incredible 15 goal haul, Swansea would only be 9 points worse off. He has been a fantastic signing for the Swans, and among the points his goals have won his side are one in the draw against Manchester United and two in turning a draw at Arsenal into a win. He has the same goal tally as Bale has managed this season, but his goals have won 6 fewer points. That fits with the fact that Swansea are far less reliant on Michu than Spurs have been on Bale in recent weeks, but it may still come as a shock quite how little Michu's strikes have actually been worth.