After six months in the North East, Andros Townsend has come back to London after moving from Newcastle United to Crystal Palace. The English winger made a £12m move from Tottenham to Newcastle in January and now has made a £13m move from Newcastle to Crystal Palace.
After scoring four goals in less than 1100 minutes, Townsend was always going to be one of Newcastle’s more sought after players after they were relegated. The move to Palace is an interesting one. If there was one position that you would say was Palace’s strong point it would be their wingers with Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie. So the question is was this a signing for depth or can Townsend bring something the other two can’t?
One of the key strengths in Palace’s wingers is dribbling. Both Zaha and Bolasie are known for being prolific dribblers. Zaha attempted 4.6 dribbles per 90 minutes last season and averaged 4 successful dribbles per 90 minutes last season. Bolasie was nearly as good with 3.2 attempted dribbles per 90 minutes and 2.9 successful dribbles per 90 minutes last season. The ability to beat a man is clearly an important attribute in Alan Pardew’s counter attacking system.
Townsend’s dribbling numbers don’t look bad, but they’re not to the level of Zaha or Bolasie. In his 1100 minutes at Newcastle Townsend attempted 2.2 dribbles per 90 minutes. Not bad, but nothing that’s going to elevate him above the wingers already at Selhurst Park.
Dribbling is an important attribute, but ultimately it isn’t important if Townsend offers extra creativity or extra goal threat. Creativity wise, neither Bolasie nor Zaha offered a lot last season. Bolasie created only one chance per 90 minutes last season. Zaha on the other wing wasn’t too much better with only 1.5 chances created per 90 minutes. Considering how much of Palace’s play goes down the wings, you’d expect much more creativity from those areas.
Townsend did offer a decent amount of creativity in his short spell at Newcastle. He created 2.1 chances per 90 minutes, albeit in a small sample. You can only take so much from a sample of 1100 minutes, but if Townsend can offer more creativity than Bolasie and Zaha, that could be a huge plus for Palace.
Finally looking at goal threat, something both Zaha and Townsend really struggle with. The two of them combined for only seven goals in 4588 minutes. Townsend has hardly been a prolific goalscorer in the past with only five goals in 3023 minutes (or 0.15 goals per 90 minutes) during his time at Tottenham and his loan spell at Queens Park Rangers. But during his short spell at Newcastle he scored four goals in 1105 minutes. Chances are that kind of rate doesn’t hold up over the long term, but if he can up his goal tally he could be a big asset for Palace.
Only time will tell whether Andros Townsend is a good buy for Palace. In this market, £13m isn’t a crazy amount of money, but Townsend will still have to play a reasonably significant role is Palace’s season to justify the fee. If he can keep up the his goal scoring and creative form from his spell at Newcastle, he has a decent shot at doing so.