Perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Aaron Lennon appeared glum as he posed for photographs with the Everton shirt he will be wearing for the rest of the season after his deadline day loan move. Everton sit twelfth in the table as they meander through a troubled campaign, boasting just 2 wins from their last 11 games and facing the potential loss of Kevin Mirallas, the brilliant Belgian winger who looks set to move on before entering the final year of his contract in the summer.
Lennon now has the opportunity to suggest to Roberto Martinez that he is indeed happy at Goodison Park, at fault of a lousy photographer, and can be a long-term option when the Toffees come to the hurdle of replacing Mirallas. The 4 month audition is likely to begin with Saturday evening’s Merseyside derby and it will present the 27 year old with the chance to rejuvenate his career after stagnating at Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino.
Lennon has made just 3 Premier League starts from 9 appearances for Tottenham this season as Pochettino has preferred the habit of cutting-inside the full-back, prevalent in the likes of Andros Townsend, Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen, but not in Lennon, the throwback to the conventional style of charging at the defender on the outside and sending over crosses.
Electrifying pace has always been the most distinctive weapon in Lennon’s armoury, a trait that convinced Sven Goran Eriksson to take the winger up to the 2006 World Cup with England at the tender age of 19. 12 months earlier and Lennon had just sealed a £1 million from Leeds, with whom he became the youngest player to ever appear in a Premier League match, to Spurs and in his debut season with the London club he was nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year, attracting even more hype to his talent. “We thought he was going to be an absolute superstar,” said Jamie Carragher on training with the teenager with England in 2006.
The early part of his career at White Hart Lane continued on that upward curve, receiving nominations for the PFA Young Player of the Year again in 2006-07 and 2008-09, the latter season also seeing him pick up Tottenham’s Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year gongs, as well as the supporter’s Young Player of the Year. A new five-year contract came in March alongside a recall to Fabio Capello’s England squad in the same week, with 2009 proving to be his most productive year with England as he earned 6 caps.
Lennon was then a young player in red-hot form, pushing for a regular spot with his country and was also a certified favourite with the Spurs fans, a point where he would find his career hit a zenith then betray his promise like the unforgiving nature of football so often can. It is indicative of his career’s stagnation that despite the level he was at during the latter end of the last decade, the 2008 League Cup remains his only professional honour to date.
Groin injuries would tamper his 2009-2010 campaign and though he made the cut for Capello’s squad for the 2010 World Cup, starts in the opening draws with USA and Algeria would be overshadowed by the collective destitution of England’s showing. Only 2 caps have followed since the debacle of South Africa as he has struggled with consistency for Spurs.
Rapid speed has always been a deceiving factor of Lennon’s play, over the course of his Premier League career he has developed a potent final-product and has registered 45 assists for Spurs in domestic competition, a figure only bettered by Darren Anderton’s 67. Over the past two seasons, he has recorded better crossing accuracy and more successful crosses than anybody at the club.
Last season Spurs’ interim coach Tim Sherwood would praise Lennon’s defensive contribution. “Until you’re in the job as a manager, you don’t appreciate him” he said, “what he does out of possession probably makes him the best defensive player we have got on the pitch. He is so diligent.” Those attributes will certainly appeal to Martinez at Everton, a coach that values intent in pressing and defending from the front as much as technical ability, as he requires his new player to subscribe to the club’s work-ethic as they ploy to climb from mid-table to compete for Europa League qualification.
To do that Martinez will be aware that Everton will need to be more productive going forward as all of the current top 8 have managed more than their 31 goals, and Lennon will be key in providing support to Mirallas, Ross Barkley, Steven Naismith and most importantly Romelu Lukaku, the £30 million striker who finds himself still facing the jury after managing just 7 goals since moving from Chelsea in the summer. Lennon will be required to provide solid cover to right-back Seamus Coleman as well as bomb forward to join in with attacks.
His lightning pace will allow him to do that, with the blistering run to set up Peter Crouch for Tottenham’s goal vs AC Milan in 2011 in the San Siro still fresh in the memory. That is the level that Lennon will be aiming to return to as he aims to stop being the forgotten man at Spurs. Everton will be desperately hoping he can come good on that aim.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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