Ahead of international fixtures against Chile and Germany at Wembley, England’s latest sensation Andros Townsend spoke about the need for himself to avoid complacency in order to obtain a place in Roy Hodgson’s squad for Brazil 2014.
The question I want to ask however is whether the Chingford born winger is as good as the hype suggests or is he another flash in the pane youngster? Well the answer is far from simple.
When you analyse Townsend’s numbers they point you in opposite directions. Ten Premier League games have conjured just one goal, and even he admitted that was a cross. Why the hype then? Well, because a lot of his other stats suggest future stardom.
He has averaged 5.5 successful dribbles per match in ten games. Quite an astonishing figure, that dwarfs the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – only Frank Ribery and Diego have more in the top 5 European leagues. His ability to take people on is incredible.
Messi and Ronaldo have had more shots per game than him, as have three other players but the 22-year-olds 45 shots so far, 4.5 per game, are an indicator of his confidence, his ability and also the learning he needs to do.
Firstly, it is great that he has the confidence to believe he will score every time he shoots. Without this personal assurance, Ronaldo and Messi wouldn’t score the goals they do. It also demonstrates the skill of the England winger to be able to fashion space regularly in games to get a shot off. This last part he does in Gareth Bale-type fashion, cutting in from the right, bursting past a player and getting a shot off. It is a skill that should be appreciated.
Now the negative, what Townsend does is very reminiscent of what Bale done last season, except for one part; the end product. It very rarely ends in the back of the net like it did so often with Bale last year.
It can be very frustrating to see the England winger come in off the right wing, burst past his marker – demonstrating his talent – and then blaze his shot high, wide and handsome.
Call me old fashioned, but I love nothing more than a winger beating his full-back on the outside, getting to the byline and pulling the ball back for the centre forward to score. Townsend can do this and has done this. He’s done exactly that against Dinamo Tbilisi and Roberto Soldado scored. Tbilisi weren’t the best but it shows he can do it.
André Villas-Boas is a fan of inverted wingers and it definitely is a system which has its positives but Townsend isn’t Bale, not yet anyway and to ensure he isn’t a one-trick pony he needs to adapt his game.
In a couple of years I think Townsend will be ready to completely perform the inverted wingers role to his best potential. He will have the extra experience and composure needed to score stunning goals from outside the box and also know when to pass instead of shooting. The reality is that at the moment his wonder goals are few and far between.
It is a hard to criticise the Englishman because for all I know he may want to go on the outside, but could be under strict orders from AVB to come inside nine times out of ten and get a shot off. If that is the case, then who am I to moan.
On the assumption that, that isn’t the case I would like to see Townsend continue playing with his child-like attitude, where he takes on everyone in sight and normally beats them. That is truly sensational to watch but when he has the option to go on the outside or come inside, every now and then go on the outside. Get to the byline and whip it in for Soldado and the midfield runners.
He has done this on occasions; I can’t deny that – he got knocked out against Hull doing so! But his 49 attempted crosses in the Premier League aren’t enough for a winger, even for a wide man playing the inverted role.
James Ward-Prowse of Southampton and West Brom’s Morgan Amalfitano are the Premier League’s most accurate delivers of a ball. JWP has had 33 accurate crosses from 81 deliveries and Amalfitano has 24 accurate from 70. Both have two assists this campaign.
With the England youngster failing to score regularly for Tottenham, he should follow the lead of Bale. When he burst onto the scene his main asset was using his pace to bomb past the full back before delivering deadly balls into the box. The home Champions League tie against Inter Milan demonstrated this perfectly.
Townsend, by his own admission, looked up to Bale and admired him. I would like the England international to try and create goals rather than score them himself like Bale did initially.
I think Townsend has all the attributes and capabilities to be a top, top player and it is so refreshing to see someone play the way he does. The hype about him isn’t unwarranted, he has spectacular talent but he will be labeled one-dimensional unless he can expand his game.
However, he is a young man, he is learning all the time and I have no doubt we will start to see him crossing the ball more and curve his enthusiasm to shoot on site as the season progresses. This breakthrough season will be a marvelous one for him whatever happens from this point onwards but should he implement more dimensions to his game it could turn a good season into a great one.