Some players just seem to slip seamlessly into international football like a tired foot into a snugly fitting slipper. Other players, while excelling domestically, struggle to even get near the demands of what is required when running around in the white shirt of England – they can’t even slip the darned footwear on, never mind tie the laces. So where does Andros Townsend fit within this painfully extended metaphor?
Close your eyes. Conjure up Andros Townsend playing football. What do you see? A journeyman loanee? Harsh. A sweetly struck spectacular goal? Maybe. But the mind can be deceiving. Try it again but this time for longer than a second or two. Now you see clearly: there he is, bedecked in white, scurrying around, frequently cutting inside and upon reaching the edge of the opposition penalty area, fizzing a low shot wide of the post.
The thing is this: for England, he has notched three goals from seven appearances. Curiously, all have come betwixt and between the 70th and 80th minute. This means he bags a goal every 112 minutes in the white of England. That’s better than Michael Owen, Alan Shearer, Bobby Charlton and Wayne Rooney. In fact, of big name England strikers, only Jimmy Greaves comes close to matching that strike rate. Of course, with his international career still very much in its infancy, the stats are skewed somewhat and it is highly unlikely that he will maintain such a record.
At domestic level, the stats are less spectacular. Townsend has 14 goals from 108 appearances. He has made 51 appearances for Tottenham Hotspur (including League and Cup games) and in doing so, cut in from wide and scored 12 goals, including a Harry Kanesque five goals in the Europa League. But Townsend, being a young English player at a reasonably big club, has spent time away from White Hart Lane…a lot of time away actually. In nine loan spells, he has 11 goals from a sizeable 87 loan appearances for clubs as diverse as Leyton Orient and Leeds United. This is by no means a bad thing –after all, it didn’t do Kane any harm whatsoever in his quest to become a living embodiment of Roy or the Melchester Rovers.
In his favour, Townsend’s goals seem to be quite spectacular, creating a weird kind of distorting illusion. His goal against the Azzurri in the friendly international at the Juventus Stadium (previously the Stadio delle Alp) raised a few eyebrows, and his effort against Montenegro was no tap in either. Lurking in the vaults too is a stunning dribble and finish from his days at Leyton Orient down at Yeovil Town (another of his loan clubs). But for each eye-catching effort, there are a number of cut inside dribbles resulting in a tame shot wide of goal.
So where does he fit within the England set-up? Currently, there is a wealth of pacey wingers-cum-forwards who love to cut inside and generally shoot wide. Townsend needs to join the queue alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck and Raheem Sterling. Of course, each player listed here has his own quirks and foibles and moreover, some are better defined as a striker than a winger (and some as an old fashioned inside forward). But just when you think that Townsend should be sent to the back of this particular queue to stand on his own, kicking a pebble around the school playground and gazing dolefully at his battered scuffed shoes, one of his mazy cutting inside runs results in him firing a shot not daisy cuttingly wide but actually into the net, and one is left thinking that although it takes him a while to do so, he can competently get his foot into a pair of sensible Clark’s shoes without falling over.
The solution is clear: stick him on for England in the 70th minute and tell him he’s got ten minutes to get the ball out wide, run, cut inside and score. That should do the trick.
Jack Wilshere’s injury shows why Arsenal shouldn’t renew his contract
The 26-year-old has been struck down by yet another injury.
Jack Wilshere will be pleased with the progress that he has made since returning to Arsenal from his loan spell at Bournemouth.
He was initially nothing more than a squad player that was out in the cold at international level too, but the midfielder worked hard to gain more game-time in North London.
Across all competitions, he has played more than 30 matches and his form earned him a call-up to the England squad.
It looked like he was getting a once-promising career back on track, but almost like clockwork, he has suffered an injury to set him back once again.
Gareth Southgate confirmed that he wouldn’t be travelling to the Netherlands for Friday’s match and the quotes were reported by Sky Sports.
“It is not a specific injury and over time they flare up and they need to settle down over a couple of days.
“We are hopeful it will settle down pretty quickly. It’s an ongoing problem and it’s not something new for him. He’s very disappointed not to be involved in the game.
“He’s trained well though but if you think about the journey he’s had in the last two years and his big injuries then he’s progressing really well.”
Although it is encouraging that it isn’t a serious injury, it is a reminder that Jack Wilshere remains a risk for both club and country.
It is difficult to build a team around a player that is susceptible to miss matches and the quote from Southgate is a worry as he refers to an ongoing problem.
Arsenal have had a difficult campaign and they will be planning a rebuild over the next 48 months as they transition away from the Arsene Wenger era.
They will have to make tough decisions on many players at the club and Wilshere’s future will be brought into focus over the next few weeks as his contract expires at the end of the season.
There have been numerous reports regarding contract talks between the two parties and there is hesitancy on both sides.
This latest injury suffered by Wilshere and the comments from Southgate referring to an ongoing problem show why it is Arsenal who need to end this association.
Wilshere can’t be relied on to stay fit and to feature prominently in a busy schedule. Arsenal will have ambitions of challenging at the very top of the game and will likely be involved in European competition every season. They need to have a squad of players that are reliable and the 26-year-old isn’t that.
Aside from that, Wilshere represents what Arsenal have become over the last decade. He is a player that had a lot of potential, but he has failed to fulfil it and been very inconsistent at the highest level. Of course, he isn’t to blame for the club’s problems, but he is also unlikely to offer the solutions.
This season has been a nice farewell campaign for him. It would have been sad if his Gunners’ career had ended after being shipped out on loan to Bournemouth.
He has returned to earn some of his credibility back, but the club need to move on and progress if they are to get back to the top of the English game.
A lot of contentious decisions will need to be made and the first should be the release of Jack Wilshere this summer.
Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line
The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.
The fractious relationship between Jose Mourinho and Luke Shaw plumbed new depths when the left-back was substituted at half-time in Manchester United’s FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. The 22-year-old had been handed a rare opportunity to impress at Old Trafford but lasted only 45 minutes.
Speaking about Shaw in his post-match interview, Mourinho said: “Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance.”
The differences between the pair now appear to be irreconcilable. Shaw, who was signed by Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2014, has been used sparingly by Mourinho. The former Southampton starlet has made just 18 Premier League appearances under the Portuguese in a career that has been blighted by injuries.
Being substituted at half-time is almost as embarrassing as it gets for a player and Shaw’s mood will not have improved after being publicly criticised by his manager. It’s certainly not the first time Mourinho has chosen to talk candidly to the media about his concerns with the 22-year-old.
Some players require an arm around the shoulder to perform at their peak, while for others it takes a kick up the backside. Mourinho, opting for the latter, does nothing without reason and has clearly tried to spark a reaction from Shaw, without success.
From being one of English football’s brightest prospects after making his World Cup debut aged just 18, Shaw, who has seven England caps to his name, is in danger of not fulfilling the potential that convinced United to spend what was then a world-record fee for a teenager.
Mourinho’s tactic of singling out individuals who have not met his standards is in stark contrast to Sir Alex Ferguson, who never blamed his players in public. It has divided opinion among pundits, with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier claiming the United manager is ‘destroying’ Shaw.
Mourinho is an expert at using smokescreens to distract from his side’s unconvincing performances. And this latest controversy has moved the narrative on from United’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.
Tough love is one thing, but the sustained, public attack on Shaw is unacceptable. If Mourinho genuinely believes he is not good enough to represent United, then fair enough. But to continually vilify the youngster’s performances is a step too far and one that could irreparably damage Shaw’s confidence.
This is not to say that Shaw is a completely innocent bystander. Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, also questioned his desire and general conditioning when he joined United four years ago. Indeed, the Dutchman signed Shaw up to a tailored exercise regime in an effort to improve his fitness.
But while van Gaal’s treatment had the desired effect, Mourinho’s has done the opposite. Being publicly humiliated on a routine basis does neither party any favours.
In all likelihood, Shaw’s disappointing United career will come to an end this summer. A fresh start away from the toxicity under Mourinho is exactly what he needs.
Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week
The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.
With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.
Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.
In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.
Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.
One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.
The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.
Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.
This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.
If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.
It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.
Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.
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