Injuries have tested the adaptability of the Tottenham squad with Jermain Defoe, Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon currently missing. Sandro’s season ended in mid-January while Younes Kaboul has only just returned to play, appearing for an hour for the Under-21 team against West Ham United at Upton Park for last night, his first appearance since the opening match of the season at Newcastle. With such a stretched squad, Andre Villas-Boas has few options for change but there is one player who could have been useful to him in the team’s present situation.Tottenham’s squad has had an imbalance throughout the season with an abundance of defenders and central midfield players but a lack of strikers. Tottenham have relied on two strikers all season and have been fortunate to get away with it so far in face of the failure of Defoe to score in 2013 and Emmanuel Adebayor’s dearth of goals all season. It would be normal to have back-ups in reserve but Tottenham decided against strengthening the squad in January.
Setting aside players on the lengthy ‘wish-list’ of reported transfer targets, there is a player who could have been available to Andre Villas-Boas but for the club’s decision to send him out on loan in January. Andros Townsend went to Queen’s Park Rangers to get experience of Premier League football. The loan scheme is an excellent way of developing young players and ensuring they get experience at a higher level than playing for the Under-21 team and has been of great assistance in the progression of Steven Caulker’s career over the past few seasons.
Townsend has also benefited from being on loan, having played for 9 other League clubs while with Spurs. He has grabbed the opportunity of regular Premier League at Loftus Road with both hands and has been receiving rave reviews and attracting the attention of the media, other clubs and supporters.
Townsend has made only 18 appearances for Spurs, mostly in the Cup competitions and Europa League. He has 5 substitute appearances in the Premier League but has yet to start a League game for Tottenham. He has scored three goals and in his few first team appearances, he has shown pace on either wing and an ability to run at defenders to take them on. He is 21 years of age, developing through the Tottenham Academy and has over one hundred League and Cup appearances with the different clubs in the past three seasons, scoring eleven goals. He came on in the League match against Swansea in December when Bale was out injured and in a late cameo appearance caused problems for the well organised visitors defence. It was from a free-kick which he won that Jan Vertonghen scored the only goal of the game. He made his debut for the England Under-21 team this season.
Over the past two seasons Townsend could have been a useful reserve to have in the squad but he was on loan last season when Lennon was injured and again, now, when both wingers are out. If he had remained at Spurs through the season he could have played in place of an injured Lennon or Bale or come on late in a game to bring something different to the team. The problem for Townsend at White Hart Lane is that he is never going to start ahead of either of the established wide players. With no cover for Bale and Lennon, in a team used to playing with wingers, it was a strange decision to loan out both of the players who could have replaced them – Townsend and Iago Falque who went to Spain for the remainder of the season.
At Loftus Road Townsend has played seven games and scored twice, playing a significant part in Harry Redknapp’s team’s battle to avoid relegation. He has received considerable praise from his former Tottenham manager who said after QPR’s draw with Norwich, in a post-match interview reported by Teamtalk,
“Andros had an outstanding game too. Absolutely brilliant today. He never stopped working. He’s a young player with a big future.”
It is so difficult for a young player to get an opportunity of regular first team football at Tottenham with so many international players available to the manager. The option of going out on loan is their chance to further their career but with the present injury situation at Spurs, Townsend would have been a useful player to have had around as Andre Villas-Boas has such limited options available to him. With the squad as it is Spurs have been required to change formation and use players in unfamiliar positions, not the best approach when battling to finish in the top four to ensure Champions League football next season.