Spurs boss defends reliable Lennon, but does winger offer enough?
11:58 11 March 2014
There is rarely stability at White Hart Lane. Managers come and go – with increasing regularity these days – while the same applies to the players.
However, some things never change and, whoever has been in the hot-seat in the past five years, they have always picked Aaron Lennon.
Indeed, amidst the chaos and agony of Saturday’s 4-0 thrashing at Stamford Bridge, Lennon quietly made his 250th Premier League appearance for Spurs.
The winger was given some opposition in the form of David Bentley back in 2008, and Spurs flooded their squad with attacking midfielders last summer.
Erik Lamela was certainly supposed to offer a threat to Lennon, and Andros Townsend has come closer than most, enjoying a run of games on the right flank at the start of the campaign and leapfrogging his team-mate at international level.
However, normal service has resumed at Tottenham and Lennon is one of the first names on the teamsheet again, having started the last 11 league games.
That is in spite of the fact that he is currently enduring one of his least productive seasons - the 26-year-old has mustered just one goal and one assist in his 23 games in all competitions.
There has always been a question mark over Lennon’s end product, and it is as relevant now as ever.
It is easy to forget that the diminutive wide man went to the last two World Cups with England, in 2006 and 2010, but he appears to be a long way down Roy Hodgson’s list – and few could argue with that, even Spurs fans.
There do not seem to be any signs of improvement and, given that Lennon got five goals and eight assists in 2008/09, and four goals and eight assists last season, he has arguably gone backwards.
However, Tim Sherwood has issued a strong defence of the midfielder, and explained why he has been such a favourite with his last three managers.
Speaking the day before the trip to Chelsea, the head coach said: “Until you’re in the job as a manager, you don’t appreciate Aaron Lennon.
“What he does out of possession probably makes him the best defensive player we have got on the pitch. He is so diligent. He recognises when to thicken up and when to put pressure on.
“We have seen in transition how he gets you on the edge of your seat. Aaron knows full well he wants to have more end product – maybe a different area of the field might benefit him.
“But I’m certain that when you need to rely on someone, he’s on your teamsheet. He gives 100 per cent in every game and leaves nothing on the pitch.
“He is such a physical specimen. For a small lad, his high-intensity runs, he gets back in, his desire – when you’re asking him to do all that, to then start saying ‘we want 20 goals or 15 assists’, it’s a bit much.
“There is a balance, but when you’re looking for reliability he’s on your teamsheet.”
Sherwood’s praise bears even more weight given his post-match comments after the drubbing at Chelsea, when he questioned his players’ character and guts.
Tellingly, the Spurs boss fumed: “There’s a few I’d count on and there’s a few I wouldn’t.”
Lennon would appear to be in the former category and it was also interesting that, having stated that “a different area of the field might benefit him”, Sherwood fielded Lennon in a central role behind Emmanuel Adebayor at the Bridge.
Once again, though, Lennon made little impact and, before the first half was even over, he was moved to the left flank – where he was equally ineffective.
In fairness, that is not his position either, and of course there were worse performances in the Spurs ranks. He cannot be blamed for the defensive errors.
However, if Sherwood hoped that a central role would make Lennon more of a threat then he was probably disappointed.
After the game, Jose Mourinho delivered a damning verdict of Spurs’ attacking threat: “I think they are a team that have great control of the ball possession, but they don’t hurt people,” he said.
The same could easily apply to Lennon as an individual. There is plenty of promise when he picks the ball up and attacks his opponent, but it very rarely results in a goal.
While Lennon’s work ethic cannot be questioned, and has rightly been highlighted by Sherwood, a club with top-four aspirations must surely expect more from a winger in the final third.
Hodgson certainly seems to think so.
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs