Andros Townsend: Pitch-minutes and improvement

Statistics are not everybody’s idea of fun, so I’ll keep this brief…

Andros Townsend.  He of the many skewed shots, the awful decisions and the relentless tendency to run into cul-de-sacs…

He’s getting better.

A lot of Tottenham fans dismissed Townsend a long time ago and were relatively indifferent as to whether he stayed in North London or not.

That wasn’t unreasonable, either.  The winger has taken a long time to economise his game and only now, approaching his twenty-fourth birthday, is he starting to show signs of real progression.

Townsend is an example of someone who has every physical quality needed to succeed but who, up until now, has never quite been able to marry those abilities with an understanding of how to use them.

He’s been an active professional since 2009.  That’s six years of experience and it should have provided ample opportunity for him to figuratively stick his hand into the fire a couple of times and learn how the game should and should not be played.

The key point, however, is that up until the beginning of this season, Andros Townsend had enjoyed very few starting opportunities in the Premier League.  In the last two seasons, for example, he has had the benefit of just 1800 minutes of league football - essentially 20 full-games - and that really amounts to under-exposure.

For the sake of a comparison, that’s less than Harry Kane (2187 PL mins) and Nabil Bentaleb (2367) and only marginally more than Ryan Mason (1580).

All players are different and there’s isn’t a magical threshold which, once breached, turns promise into matured ability, but drawing those parallels illustrates just how embryonic Townsend’s career is.  Yes, he spent a lot of time on-loan in the Football League and has many more minutes in European and League Cup games, but that’s of limited relevance.

This point has been raised here before, but it’s worth reinforcing it - and now that he is showing a flicker of improvement, it seems more relevant than ever.

Courtesy of Squawka.

Numbers don’t tell the entire story and they should only ever be used in conjunction with what you see on the actual pitch, but the above per/90 statistics are still interesting - and they play into the notion that Townsend has not only started to used his talent more productively, but has become a little more streetwise, too.

At a guess, that’s part player, part manager - credit to Mauricio Pochettino, obviously, because it’s not a coincidence that so many other members of the Tottenham squad have also evolved since the Argentinean arrived at White Hart Lane.

Forgetting the specifics for a minute, this is worth remembering any time a young player struggles earlier in his career.  Ignore his age, ignore his inflated reputation, and look at the amount of games he’s actually taken part in and the number of minutes he’s had within the environment in which he’s primarily being judged.

It’s not necessarily a consistent rule, because there will always be exceptions - quick/slow learners, early/late developers etc - but its a very useful context for judging development.

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