I’m glad I don’t write about England. You’d smell the apathy the second you clicked the link. I do, for my sins, still watch them when I can. Sometimes that’s as much to see other talents in action as much as it is England. On Saturday, it was for Xhaka and Shaqiri mainly. They along with Inler and especially Barnetta lived up to their hype.
I digress however, watching Walcott and Milner compete for worst England winger title, my thoughts inevitably turned to our own jet heeled winger. How far in Capello’s estimations must Aaron Lennon have fallen if he’s not even in a squad with the aforementioned pair? Admittedly he struggled after the Bernabeu fiasco, to hit really top form but he’s still got to consider himself unlucky.
So what now for Aaron Lennon?
The fallout from his withdrawal from the Madrid game was ugly and the whole thing from him getting ill, to being named and then replaced was very poorly handled and embarrassing for the club and player. Whether Aaron tried to convince himself he was fit or whether he was pushed into it by the management we may never know. Whichever, in the fallout there were stirrings from ‘reliable sources inside the club’ that Lennon and Harry Redknapp had fallen out. This wasn’t helped by Aaron’s misguided tweets on the subject. In the games after this, Redknapp decided that he’d discovered Rafa Van der Vaart’s best position to be right wing.
It’s not though. Even if it were the effect it has on the teams shape is damaging to the point of negligence.
By playing Rafa there it also added fuel to the rumours that Lennon really could be on his way out at the end of the season. Aaron did get back in the side and although he seemed lacking confidence to beat his man and get to the byline he performed to a decent standard.
Now the question must be asked, is Aaron going to make that push to be the very best he can be, Capello isn’t the first England manager to try him and not seem to trust him. In fact he’s rarely performed to his best for England, a couple of standout performances against Trinidad and Croatia apart. Much of this is due to Glen Johnson playing behind him. I’m not going to question Johnson, I could but not now, it’s clear that his strengths are in going forward. As we have seen at Spurs, Lennon performs better with full backs like Corluka who don’t cramp his attacking space.
At 24, its ridiculous for me to suggest he’s getting on, but lets face it, as a pacey winger he is approaching what should be his peak years so this coming season could be crucial in defining how his career goes.
I still remember Aaron’s debut against Chelsea and the buzz in the crowd, the hairs standing up on the back of my neck, the first time he got on the ball and ran with it.
I still get that same buzz when he gets the ball, we all do I’m sure, it’s magic. He’s still got that raw pace and he’s added a lot of guile to his skillset in beating his man. I don’t think he gets enough credit for the other improvements in his game. In the 09-10 season he showed how hard he’d worked on his delivery and his final ball now is consistently good. The fact that he looks up more and tries to hit a man more than just slinging it into an area is a credit to how he’s matured. Evidence of this improvement came in the Champions League this season, when we exited to Madrid he was joint top of the assists table with Mesut Ozil.
Last season wasn’t his most explosive but it went largely unreported or noticed that his defensive skills and workrate had improved significantly. This was even more noticeable when Van der Vaart was playing right wing and Corluka or Kaboul was left hideously exposed costing us goals at home to Arsenal and West Brom. Not saying Aaron definitely would have stopped them, but he’d have been there to try.
One area of his game he still needs to work on is his goalscoring record. In six seasons with Spurs, he has only managed 18 Premier League goals. In a time when wide men are contributing more and more goals for their teams, Lennon hasn’t really stepped up to the plate. One interesting stat is that almost 50% of his goals come in the last 15 minutes of games. We all remember crucial finishes snatching draws or wins from Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and more. This tells me he doesn’t lack composure, although at times you would believe he does. I hope its an area that he’s working on, as we’ve seen with his crossing and defending, when he does work on it, he does improve. If he can add 10+ goals a season to his CV he really will join the highest echolons of wide men where I believe he belongs.
There is one other part of his game he needs to work on, as does our other wing wonder, Gareth Bale. They need to learn how to play on the opposite flank. Every top club has wingers who can switch at will and still be potent threats. Yet when Lennon and Bale switch wings its as if they’ve never seen a football before. They just become totally ineffective. Whether it’s a spatial awareness thing or just a complete lack of practice it’s something I feel they need to work at to give us another tactical weapon.
Bale’s arrival on the scene may explain Aaron’s quieter season last year. All the noise and hype was about Bale and at times it appeared this hype had got to some of our team as they seemed to always look left, even when Bale was double teamed. It felt as if Lennon was an afterthought sometimes, yet to me he should have been used more as an outlet. Of course Spurs faltering frontline also didn’t help Aaron or any of the midfield in highlighting their abilities either. It seems certain that Lennon, Bale et al would have had many more assists with a clinical striker on the end of the supply.
I don’t believe that Aaron Lennon is going to leave Spurs this summer, talk of it has certainly gone quiet. I do believe that this year is crucial for him. He’s at a crossroads. I hope and think that if he really wants to, this can be his real breakout year. With the European Championships coming up at the end of the season, he has the opportunity to improve on his consistency, goalscoring and versatility and claim Englands right wing for himself and put all doubts behind him.
If he can do that, you can guarantee that he’ll have been making Spurs fans smile and cheer his name all season long.
Step forward, Aaron Lennon, this is your time!