Andros Townsend: Europe's Most Successful Dribbler Has Earned His Spurs

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Andros Townsend: Europe's Most Successful Dribbler Has Earned His Spurs
Michael Steele/Getty Images
Andros Townsend celebrates putting England 3-1 up against Montenegro with a stunning shot from 20 yards.

Andros Townsend’s superb early-season performances should shore up his starting berth, despite the surfeit of talented wingers (Erik Lamela, Nacer Chadli and Aaron Lennon) waiting in the wings.

Townsend’s soujourn at Queens Park Rangers last season served to reinvigorate a stalling career—one previously comprised of eight largely unsuccessful loan spells at sub-Premier League clubs.

Now back at his parent club for the 2013/14 campaign, Townsend is thriving, and should be afforded time to further showcase his skills—irrespective of Erik Lamela’s price tag or Aaron Lennon’s wealth of Premier League experience.

Andros himself is quick to acknowledge the importance of his QPR loan in advertising his obvious talents, saying, via The Telegraph: “Going to QPR was almost make or break,” he said. “I have confidence in my own ability, but until you show people you can play in the Premier League that counts for nothing.”

This renewed confidence has manifested itself most noticeably in his dribbling.

In fact, Townsend is statistically the most successful dribbler (5.5 successful dribbles per game, according to Who Scored?) across the big five European leagues (Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1), such is his propensity for engaging in one-on-one duels. Second on that list, not surprisingly, is a certain Lionel Messi (5.3 successful dribbles per game), which is not bad company for the young winger to keep.

Andros Townsend leads the European leaderboard in the most successful dribbles per game (Image from Whoscored.com)

Of course, in the absence of context, these rankings are mostly frivolous exercises, yet they can reveal some interesting truths.

In Townsend’s case, the sheer frequency of his take-ons bespeaks a player unperturbed by the pressures of the Premier League; one that is willing to take the fight to any full-back, regardless of their pedigree.

Granted, youthful exuberance is somewhat futile if not partnered with quality on the ball. However, even in this short time as a Spurs starter, Townsend has demonstrated a potential that portends an exciting career in the top flight.

Townsend runs from deep inside the Tottehnam half and finishes cooly from just outside the Tbilisi penalty box.

In particular, Townsend’s goal against Dinamo Tbilisi (in the Europa League qualifiers—see video, right) offered a tantalising insight into his goalscoring potential.  

Some readers might be quick to highlight that Townsend has yet score in the Premier League, despite attempting more shots per game (4.3) than any other player.

Nevertheless, encouragement can be gleaned from the fact he’s engineering these advantageous shooting positions. And in truth, his shooting hasn’t been that erratic; he generates an impressive amount of power and whip with both feet—the radar just needs a slight recalibration.

Townsend certainly had his shooting boots on against Montenegro on Friday night, unleashing a thunderous low drive with his wrong (right) foot (see video, below).

That strike capped off a hugely effective debut, as he reinvested the faith that Roy Hodgson showed by starting him in a game of such magnitude.

Jeremy Wilson, of The Telegraph, was eager to praise the “refreshing” nature of Townsend’s confidence, an “antidote” to the “fear of failure” malady that has so often plagued recent England sides:

Townsend puts England 3-1 up against Montenegro.

That confidence has been evident in everything Townsend has done this season at Tottenham and still shone through under the most intense scrutiny at Wembley. He was always looking for the ball, always running into space and, most refreshing of all, was never afraid to take risks when in possession.

Ultimately, as well as Townsend is currently progressing, there’s still the contentious issue of whether Tottenham’s new £30 million signing, Erik Lamela, should be entitled to that right-wing spot.

Andre Villas-Boas will inevitably incorporate Lamela into the first team—sooner rather than later—but displacing Townsend would be an error of judgement.

As harsh as it is on Gylfi Sigurdsson, playing Townsend on the left and Lamela on the right (hence, sacrificing Gylfi) might be an agreeable solution.

Deploying Townsend in Gylfi’s position would provide natural width on that flank, while facilitating Lamela’s integration into the team in his preferred position.

As the longest-serving player in Tottenham's squad (he joined the club when he was 9 years old) Townsend has certainly showed commitment the club. The time has come for Spurs to reciprocate that commitment and invest in his future.

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