Andre Villas-Boas made good tactical use of substitute Andros Townsend against Sunderland last Saturday. Many would have wanted the England winger to have started in a more attacking formation at the Stadium of Light but the manager opted for a balance in the team with Nacer Chadli preferred to provide extra defensive cover on the left side of the field.Andros Townsend was introduced into play for only the last ten minutes but AVB made a good decision to bring on his winger at a time when Sunderland were looking for a late goal to salvage a point in a game where they could easily have been three or four goals down if Spurs’ finishing had been more clinical.
For a period before and after their second goal Tottenham had taken total control of the game and Sunderland were pushed back into their own half unable to raise an attack of any kind. Spurs had a number of golden opportunities to seal the victory but spurned them and as always happens in those situations, the team under pressure, regroups late in the game, knowing that they have survived a torrid time and are still in with a chance of getting something from it. The other team realising that they have missed a great opportunity to press home their advantage become understandably nervy.
Gus Poyet had freshened his attacking options with Borini replacing their goalscorer, Johnson after 67 minutes. Ten minutes later in a final throw of the dice he took off his right back and brought on his third substitute, Emanuele Giaccherini, an attacking wide midfield player. Seb Larsson moved from midfield to fill in at right back with the option of getting forward to trouble a Tottenham side he expected to be sitting back to defend their lead.Within two minutes Andre Villas-Boas made a substitution. Rather than replace Chadli with another defensive midfielder, he sent on Townsend who immediately introduced himself to Larsson with a run on the left and a cross which should have brought the third goal, had Jermain Defoe’s effort not hit the post. This ensured that Larsson and the other midfield players on their right had to pay attention to their defensive duties and not just focus of getting forward to put pressure on the Tottenham defence. They had to know the whereabouts of Townsend who in the brief cameo appearance provided a considerable threat to them.
The anaylsis of Townsend’s performance on the FourFourTwo Stats Zone demonstrates the influence Townsend had in the final minutes of the game.The England winger played on the left and created 2 chances, completed 7 passes, drew 1 foul from the opposition and had 1 successful take-on at the edge of the Sunderland penalty area. He is shown to have popped all around the Sunderland box and was very effective.
The attacking substitution by AVB kept the pressure on Sunderland and gave Spurs options when they won the ball in those crucial moments late on in the game. The normal thought might have been to introduce a player like Gylfi Sigurdsson, who came on just before the end, to work hard defensively for the team but in Townsend the attacking option proved successful.
Townsend’s performance is a reminder to AVB of what he can do and that he can play on the left and deliver crosses into the penalty area. It shows that there is a place for both Townsend and Aaron Lennon in the team as a double attacking force on the wings. AVB just has to be satisfied that the balance of the team is right to provide defensive cover as well which is how Nacer Chadli has proved his worth against Manchester United and now Sunderland. His stats show how hard he worked on the left side of midfield, linking up with Kyle Naughton at Sunderland and with Jan Vertonghen against United. His height also proved a threat at set-pieces both in attack and defensively. He could have scored himself and it was his header back into the area from Kyle Walker’s free=kick that brought abut Paulinho’s first half equaliser.
Lennon, Townsend and Chadli are all proving to be very useful players for Andre Villas-Boas with Sigurdsson and Erik Lamela also available to play on the wings – providing the manager with numerous options.