There are two ways of looking at Tottenham's decision to indefinitely suspend Andros Townsend from the first team.

On the surface it appears a bit heavy-handed for an isolated incident; perhaps a step too far to make an example of a player who has been a respectable beacon of the club's academy and is simply determined to break into the team.

Any physical altercation with a colleague is not acceptable and should be dealt with strongly. But was a first-team demotion over the top? Kris Commons was not suspended by Celtic after his furious rant at staff on the bench, live on television cameras, a fortnight ago for example.

And of relevance, Saido Berahino appeared in West Brom's next game after complaining in public that he would never play for chairman Jeremy Peace again for denying him a deadline day move to White Hart Lane.

It also seems harsh that Townsend would join a list of names that includes Emmanuel Adebayor in being frozen out, for a time at least, and made to train with the U21s. Others include Aaron Lennon and Etienne Capoue, and none of these players remain at the club.

The alternative view, though, is that Tottenham have taken a calculated risk, fully prepared to push Townsend closer to the exit, as they continue to stamp out the ill-discipline that has dogged the club over recent seasons.

Mauricio Pochettino has been fighting a mentality problem ever since he came through the door; players who appear far more concerned with themselves than the team, who are prepared to stoke divisions within the squad and disrupt plans that do not involve them.

Townsend by no means fits this description but Pochettino pledged to cleanse the squad of this culture and doing so has taken a considerable effort. It appears he will not tolerate even the slightest slip.

"As a manager I am very fair but discipline is very important,” he said. “When you behave in the wrong way you always need to pay. The staff need to show respect to the player and the player needs to show respect to the staff.”

Tottenham are also in a good place at the moment. Ill-discipline has the potential to poison good form and the head coach will be desperate not to let this spoil their run.

But what has happened to Townsend? It is understood this is the first time he has acted out in this nature and goes against his character. He has apologised to all staff, but it is clear that growing frustration at a lack of opportunities over the last few seasons has peaked.

The club were keen for him to get over a pre-season injury and compete for a first-team place but, while Pochettino likes his ability and sees potential, there is a feeling that Townsend has not been effective enough when called upon so far this term, and that he is not progressing while others have.

One who has is Townsend's direct competition Erik Lamela. Comparing the two players in the Premier League, in which Lamela has played 632 minutes and Townsend only 70, is unjust and creates a distorted contrast. Per match, Lamela has made an average of 22 successful passes to Townsend's 7.7, created 2.4 chances to his team-mates 0.7, and won noticeably more tackles and interceptions.

But when comparing the duo with a 'per 90' minutes metric, Lamela still comes out on top. He beats Townsend with 31.2 successful passes to 29.6, three key passes against 2.6, 3.4 chances created over 2.6, and 0.28 goals scored to Townsend's zero. Across the stats, Lamela has been one of Tottenham's best performers this season.

And then there is the development of Josh Onomah and other exciting attacking youngsters working against Townsend's favour. Pochettino is a big fan of Onomah and Nathan Oduwa, who is currently doing excellently on loan at Rangers, and it was Onomah who was preferred as a late substitute against Aston Villa on Monday, ramping-up Townsend's frustration and which undoubtedly played a part in his clash with fitness coach Nathan Gardiner in the warm down. 

Heaping more insecurity on his long-term future at the club is that both these youths play in Townsend's position and while Onomah and Oduwa are just 18 and 19 years old respectively, Townsend is now 24. He is also older than Lamela and there is a sense that he should have pushed on by now.

Rightly or wrongly, Townsend believes he has been harshly treated with a lack of first-team opportunities, having been told in the summer he was very much wanted and would not be allowed to leave. The player intends to make England's squad for next year's European Championships, for which he clearly needs to play regularly, and Wednesday's firm punishment may have helped make up his mind about where the best chance of doing that is.

Townsend is also about to enter the final 18 months of his contract and there are, as yet, no plans to talk about renewing that deal. January will be prime selling time and the events of this week indicate Tottenham may now be prepared to let him leave.