Why, in the long-term, Andros Townsend is more useful to Tottenham than Aaron Lennon 2

There was a time, a couple of years ago, that Aaron Lennon was almost as integral to Tottenham’s success as Gareth Bale was in 2012/13. In truth, Spurs were never as reliant on Lennon as they became on Bale, but he was often the spark in the Martin Jol/Juande Ramos days, the player who was worked into isolation as often as possible and asked to ‘make things happen’.

Times have changed, though, and with the influx of talent in recent years, Lennon now runs the risk of being marginalised, either at the expense of Andros Townsend or Erik Lamela, with the former seemingly having a stronger claim to the right-sided role with each passing week.

Lennon is currently approaching full-fitness, and will soon be available to Andre Villas-Boas again - so with that in mind, below is a quick comparison between his and Townsend’s movement, taken from the games against Norwich this year and last at White Hart Lane.

(via Squawka.com)

What the graphics don’t show, is the respective players’ efficiency with the ball, but Lennon’s delivery has never been exceptional and Townsend’s is still maturing - so that’s really an off-setting comparable.

What Villas-Boas sees in Townsend is not necessarily what he is now, but what he could be in the future. Generally, a left-footed player on the right-hand side of the pitch wouldn’t spend as much time on the touchline as Townsend does - and that’s what makes him more valuable than Lennon. In fact, if you look at the top-half of the Lennon graphic, that’s probably what you’d expect to see Townsend produce - i.e. very line vertical progress beyond the penalty-box, lots of cutting in-field. Yes, Andros Townsend does cut in-field and shoot far, far too much, but he’s also capable of going down the line, which is something that we saw him do for England in both of the recent games.

Aaron Lennon can’t do both. In a one-on-one situation, approaching a defender at pace, he’s dangerous, but anytime he comes off his wing and in-field he just looks lost - he runs ponderously into the more congested areas of a defence and normally gets dispossessed.

Additionally, there’s another distinct difference between the two: Townsend beats more defenders. We assume that Lennon dribbles the ball a lot, because that’s what we associate with him, but he really doesn’t - he averaged just 1.3 successful runs per game last season, just 0.9 the year before, and 1.6 in 10/11, compared to the 5.5 Townsend is currently producing. When you actually think about it, that makes perfect sense: Lennon, over the years, has found himself behind a defence by way of a teammate’s pass rather than via his own running, he’s never really picked the ball up deep and beat opponent-after-opponent. Lennon needs a harmonious relationship with a creative midfielder to be a threat, Townsend can operate in isolation.

The irony here, is that while Lennon has improved many aspects of his game under Villas-Boas - notably his work-rate and his defensive discipline - it’s probably going to be the Portuguese’s tactics which end his career at Tottenham - he just isn’t multi-dimensional enough to play in this system, and his set of abilities allows him to be effective in far fewer areas of the pitch than a Townsend-style winger.

Screen Shot 2013-06-14 at 23.20.53

Free £10 bet with BetFred - No deposit required