When Andros Townsend left for Crystal Palace in the Summer of 2016, many United fans were left gutted. Despite relegation, there was a clear love for Townsend on Tyneside. He was a shining light in a team of players who didn’t show the fight needed in the Premier League. Now after a lacklustre start to the campaign for Palace, Townsend once again finds himself linked with the Magpies. However, with United going just fine without him the question is raised. Do Newcastle really need Andros Townsend?
Firstly we must look into Townsends initial departure from Tyneside. In the days after relegation, the club moved quickly to secure the services of manager Rafa Benitez. Thankfully, they were successful in this. Benitez’s first port of call was to sit down with Townsend for talks about his future. Benitez, a big fan of the young Englishman, spoke in depth about what his role would be at the club. However, after two meetings with Benitez, Townsend reluctantly came to the decision to leave the club. It is believed that he left to try and keep himself in contention for the England squad. Townsend was named in the squad for the Euros but was one of two players to be cut when making the final 23. He believed that playing in the Championship would further damage his chances despite his respect and love for the club.
The manner of which Townsend left the club was, of course, respectful. But, however, underneath this, the core problem was that he wasn’t willing to show the commitment to the club who had dragged him out of Tottenham’s reserves and into the spotlight. This shows a certain disrespect and also perhaps shows the wrong mentality for a player in a team chasing promotion. However, on the other hand, his actions were justified, Townsend was within touching distance of gaining a spot on the plane to France. If he spent a year in the Championship this would further damage his chances. You can see where Townsend was coming from despite it perhaps being a commitment problem.
It isn’t just the way he left the club which raises real questions for United. It is also whether he is up to scratch and could do a job for Newcastle. For this we must compare him with his replacement on Tyneside, Matt Ritchie, who he would be competing against for the position of right midfielder. For this I will compare Townsends time on Tyneside to that of Ritchie’s. Obviously this doesn’t take into account the difference in league and team as well as the current form of Townsend. In 12 appearances for the Magpies, Townsend scored four goals for United. This is better when compared to Ritchie’s 6 goals in 23 appearances for Magpies as well as it being in a lower league. But of course a right midfielders job is more often or not to create goals. Townsend managed only two assists for United in his time on Tyneside. Ritchie has provided six. For this Ritchie wins this round. However, Townsend also has a better pass completion rate of 81.3% when compared to Ritchie’s 78.6%. In terms of overall performance, both have just one man of the match award.
Quite clearly, it would be a good battle for the right midfield berth. However, what you have to consider is Townsend’s current form. Currently, Townsend has just one league goal to his name whereas Ritchie has notched up four in his last two games in all competitions. Clearly, the man in form is Ritchie, however, in a Newcastle shirt, Townsend performed better but only just. Does this really justify bringing him back when you already have one of the leagues best midfielders. The argument that he is cover also falls down with Christian Atsu and Yoan Gouffran both in good form in similar positions.
Andros Townsend was the best of a bad bunch last season in the Premier League. Many players didn’t turn up often enough and Townsend did try, to the best of his abilities, to keep United up. However, now with the Magpies doing well in the Championship, it is debatable whether a move for him would be really necessary. This, as well as his downturn of form at Palace, surely make a good case for not signing him. However, Townsend is exciting and an amazing player when he gets going and in a lower division, he could find his form and become a real danger to opposition defences. It is, of course, debatable they say never go back but would Townsend finally be the one to prove this theory wrong?
Feature Image credit: Martin Le Roy