Andros Townsend continued to display his remarkable form, as he was the star man at Villa Park this afternoon. While his fantastic start to the season at White Hart Lane was overlooked, his displays in the past week for England have elevated the 22-year-old’s football status. And Townsend was Spurs’ main attacking threat in an important away fixture against Aston Villa.
Paul Lambert’s men dropped off in a 4-5-1 without the ball, and focused on compressing the space between the lines for Spurs’ attackers to receive the ball, while holding a high defensive line. Villa allowed the Spurs centre-backs to carry the ball out, and focused on maintaining a compact shape without the ball. Andreas Weimann and Gabby Agbonlahor quickly closed down the Spurs fullbacks when they received the ball, and the Sandro/Paulinho double-pivot was fairly quiet.
Yet, despite these issues Spurs face – along with Roberto Soldado’s isolation – they still found themselves in the lead at half time. In the 31st minute, Spurs fortuitously broke past Villa’s pressure – Lewis Holtby played an incisive pass to Soldado, who picked out Townsend flying down the right flank, and the England international delivered a venomous ball that glided past Soldado, Holtby and Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan, to give Spurs the lead.
Although Villa nullified majority of Spurs’ attacking threat, their midfield struggled to sustain possession, thus leading to their attackers being deprived of service. Their main attacking threat came through Villa’s success attacking space behind Kyle Walker, which didn’t result in many legitimate goal-scoring opportunities.
Nevertheless, Townsend continued to shine in the second half. With Villa’s pressure depleting, Townsend was allowed more space and time to attack Lambert’s defence, opposed to the first half when Antonio Luna stayed tight on the Spurs winger. The 22-year-old constantly drove down the right flank full of confidence, terrorizing Luna at every opportunity.
Townsend completed the most take-on’s and his unpredictable movement in the final third was pivotal. Luna was never certain whether Townsend would cut in for a shot, or drive to the byline to deliver a dangerous cross. The Spurs winger was a nuisance to the Villa backline, and by far the most dangerous player on the pitch.
However, the arrival of Christian Benteke did spark a promising few minutes for the hosts. The Belgian’s physical presence pegged Spurs’ backline a few yards back, while his teammates began to play direct balls into the centre forward. And Villa nearly got their equalizer when Benteke nodded Leandro Bacuna’s cross over the bar.
Unfortunately for Lambert’s men, Spurs doubled their lead minutes later – when the tide was shifting in Villa’s favour. Paulinho played in a splendid ball for the oncoming Soldado to slide past Guzan.
While it was Soldado’s first goal from open-play in the Premier League, it was significant based on the distance between Paulinho and the Spanish striker. For large portions of the match Soldado was isolated, but when midfielders get into advanced positions, the Spurs striker is able to link play and provide a legitimate goal-scoring threat.
Nonetheless, Townsend will dominate the headlines once again, as his sensational performance played a significant role in Spurs’ success. More importantly, Spurs will look to build on this victory as they aim to keep pace with the pack at the top that’s beginning to drift away.