Tottenham: Lennon makes case for England with fine campaign
It’s that man again, Gareth Bale, hogging the headlines once more after scoring his 16th Premier League goal of the season to set the platform for Spurs’ huge win over rivals Arsenal in the race for Champions League qualification. The Welshman waited until the 37th minute before making his ruthless contribution to send Tottenham on their way, but two minutes later the attention shifted to his opposite flying-winger, the right-sided Aaron Lennon.
Lennon latched onto a pass from Scott Parker, just like Bale did with Gylfi Sigurdsson, to escape from the Arsenal back-line with unerring pace to round Wojciech Szczesny and make it 2-0. It was only his fourth goal of the season, but as he wheeled away to celebrate sealing his team’s win, it was a notable reminder that Spurs possess not just one electrifying winger, but two.
His wide-berth will excuse Lennon’s relatively modest goals return for a campaign that has been largely impressive. The only player to start all 28 of Tottenham’s league games so far this season, as well as making another 7 in the Europa League, he has registered 7 assists in total, more than any other Spurs player, going someway to denounce the criticism regarding his lack of consistent end-product that has previously undermined his trade as a speed-merchant winger.
It is this season’s form that injected the confidence in Lennon to whizz past Arsenal’s left-back Nacho Monreal to control Parker’s incisive through-ball with a couple of touches that took him seamlessly past the helpless Szczesny to leave an open goal. His low sense of gravity, superb balance and agile frame allows him to flee past his marker with consummate ease, and now having added a tangible to his game, he is developing into a dangerous force for his club whilst surely threading a future for his country too.
His strike was an epitome of what Lennon offers to Andre-Villas Boas’ system at the Spurs. Operating mainly as an inner-winger in a 4-2-3-1 so Kyle Walker has room to bomb forward from his right-back station behind him, his lightning pace has the opposition full-back constantly guessing whether he will dash into the channel between him and the centre-half, like against Arsenal, or look to go on the outside to fizz a dangerous cross into the penalty area.
He is also vital to an attack that looks to move the ball fluidly and intricately across the front-line, currently sitting on a pass completion percentage of 85% and creating a clear chance, on average, twice a match.
It is little wonder that Lennon’s goal sent Spurs seven points clear of their north London rivals as they march towards the Champions League spots with a multi-talented squad. As well as the danger of Bale, opponents also have the goal-threat of Defoe and Clint Dempsey, the power of Sandro and Moussa Dembele and now the vibrant form of a 25-year old Lennon, who has previously failed to realise his potential, whether it be hindrance through injury (his groin in 2009 or his hamstring last season) or his lack of form. A plummet under Juande Ramos in 2007 saw him suffer a two-year absence from the national team when his career was just beginning to kick-start. He is now thriving under Villas-Boas.
It was his blistering from of 2010 under Harry Redknapp that saw Lennon make Fabio Capello’s England squad for the World Cup in South Africa and start the first two games, vs USA and Algeria. What followed was a two-year absence for Lennon on the national scene, with just two caps coming against San Marino in October and Brazil, in a 14 minute cameo, last month.
If the 25-year old can continue to replicate the form he is currently showing, then it will not be long before Roy Hodgson considers making him his first choice right-winger ahead of the man he upstaged on Sunday, Arsenal’s Theo Walcott.
Villas-Boas has injected serious improvement to this Tottenham side, who are relentlessly pursuing the Champions League spot that eluded them last year. With Lennon, contracted at White Hart Lane until 2016, developing into a right-wing force to be ranked among the best in the Premier League, elevation to the highest level could see even further improvement in the player who promised so much when he became, aged 16 when at Leeds, the youngest player to appear in a Premier League game.