With the Transfer Window open there has been a lot of speculation about who will be coming to White Hart Lane.
Paulinho looks to be on his way, which could signal a move to 4-3-3 if Andre Villas-Boas plans to line him up in the same midfield as Moussa Dembele and Sandro. If this is the case, then it will make the wide positions increasingly important.
Last season we lacked cover in these areas with just Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale playing with any kind of width. Gylfi Sigurdsson carved out a role for himself on the left, but often moved inside; Clint Dempsey did the same when deployed on the right, also making it all rather narrow.
Andros Townsend going out on loan was good for him personally, but meant we lacked cover down the stretch when Lennon crucially went down with injury.
Moving temporarily to QPR in January saw the England U-21 international demonstrate the pace, power and trickery many of us have seen over the years. The only difference was that this time, he was doing it at the Premier League level.
Kyle Walker, Kyle Naughton and Steven Caulker have all returned from successful loan spells at other Premier League clubs to thrust their way in to the first team.
So, could this finally be the breakout season for Andros Townsend?
Andros Townsend has versatility
Although naturally stronger on his left, Andros Townsend can play on both sides of the formation. Whether deployed as a wide forward in a 4-3-3 or a natural winger in a 4-2-3-1, he has the ability to hurt defences on either side of the pitch.
He showed his versatility in his first match when on loan with QPR, starting off on the left against Norwich, and then switching to the right after the interval.
QPR struggled out of the gate and were nullified by a Canaries team that were content to sit back and stifle their play. As a result, Andros Townsend struggled to get forward in the first 45 and didn’t complete a cross with only Jamie Mackie to aim for.
At half time, Shaun Wright-Phillips was removed to bring on a target man in Bobby Zamora and Andros Townsend was switched to be the supply line from the right.
With QPR now forcing the pace and looking to play through Townsend, he enjoyed much more of the ball.
He put two shots on target, striking one with either foot, whilst also picking out Zamora with a peach of a cross that the striker could only frustratingly nod wide.
In QPR’s next match with Swansea he demonstrated that he could play on both sides of the formation once again.
After destroying Norwich down the right side, he started off here this time. However, QPR were too predictable for a stifling Swansea side that easily sniffed out their obvious game plan.
With the Swans pressing early, strong in the air Jamie Mackie was unable to get inside from his starting position on the left and Adel Taarabt was struggling in his role as a false nine. With QPR limited on the ball against a possession hungry Swansea side, moving play through Andros Townsend was proving difficult.
At half-time, Bobby Zamora once more came on and QPR again came in to the game as a result of now having a target man in the number nine role.
With a central number nine, Andros Townsend again had a better second half and was able to get further forward. He put three balls in to the box and although none found their target, showed his ability to ghost past players and get in to good crossing positions.
He also continued to show that he has an eye for goal, with two more shots, although neither troubled Michel Vorm in the Swansea goal.
Andros Townsend has an eye for goal
Something we also saw during his loan spell with QPR was that Andros Townsend was most definitely not shy about shooting.
After going to Loftus Road in January, the Spurs man was the eighth most frequent shooter during the rest of the season among Premier League midfielders. The main difference between him and the rest of the top eight, the number of efforts from inside the box.
Out of the top eight midfielders for attempts at goal since January, Andros Townsend is the only player to not have hit a single shot from inside the box. Unsurprisingly this has had an effect on his accuracy, as he has by far the lowest percentage of shots on target. However, when all of your efforts are from distance, you would expect accuracy to suffer, as more shots are blocked or wayward.
This makes his two goals quite an achievement given all of his strikes were from range. Also, he is just a single goal behind the likes of Coutinho and Walcott who take over 50% of their shots from inside the area.
If he can use his dribble to take him inside the box, rather than for settling to shoot from outside, that goal figure could well be on the rise this season. Playing on a team that sees more of the ball than QPR did last term, and dominates more opponents, could allow Andros Townsend to do this.
Andros Townsend can take people on
This is what Andros Townsend’s game is all about and something we lacked last season from wide areas when Aaron Lennon was out and Gareth Bale was playing centrally.
We’ve all seen Andros in full flight, but to see him regularly beating opponents at the Premier League level was a real indicator that he is ready for a breakout season.
During his loan spell with QPR, no Premier League midfielder in that time attempted more take-ons of their opponents.
While it’s easy to attempt to take people on, nobody completed more than him as well.
On top of that, you have to go down to our own Moussa Dembele (20th) to find a midfielder with a higher take-on completion percentage.
Andros Townsend ready for a breakout season?
Back in January when Andros Townsend went on loan I wrote that it was “a good move and a bad move all in one.“
The short-term loss of a player who could come in and provide cover in the wide areas was something we could have done with down the stretch. However, the move was more about the long-term development of player who needed some playing time at this level.
The impact he had with QPR was far greater than many could have predicted. This should signal that he is ready to finally benefit the first team by providing a valid option of cover in the wide areas, which was thin on the ground last season.
Names like Paulinho and David Villa may have many of us fans salivating for this season, but a player we already have may well be ready for a breakout year.