It’s fascinating (and somewhat confusing) to see the lavish praise being heaped upon one Aaron Lennon by his new teammates at Everton.
He’s a player who made a huge impact early on in his Tottenham career but who, in recent years, seemed to fade into absolute anonymity.
A glance at his stats makes unconvincing reading – just 26 goals, 45 assists over nearly a decade in the lilywhite shirt. And yet, if you can cast your mind back to the halcyon days (however fleeting they were) it’s easy to trick yourself into believing that there’s still a gem of a player in there, somewhere.
His biggest strength was the directness of his running, the electric pace of it, and his ability to get the team on the front foot in the blink of an eye.
His cameos in the 2006 World Cup only heightened our sense of expectation and whilst we can all recall individual performances for Spurs of inspiration – Chelsea in 2006, Wigan in 2009 – in recent years he seemed to have lost all of that cutting edge and was playing well within himself.
Gone was his drive to take on a full back, even if he hadn’t seemed to have lost any of his explosive speed. Instead of drawing fouls out of exhausted defenders, he’d rarely opt to take them on at all – instead opting for a simple ball inside to a teammate.
I used to think his conservative playing style was the result of being outshone by the majestic Bale, whose switch to the right under Redknapp also had the added impact of often seeing him deployed out of position on the left.
It might also have been the case that playing with a marauding wing back like Kyle Walker cramped his space and tempted him into narrower positions, diluting his impact.
Either way, by the end of last season I had him firmly in my list of players who didn’t want to be there. The wage slaves, comfortable with their lot not to mention their sizeable weekly pay cheques.
Baines’ recent comments make interesting reading though. He claims that Lennon’s work rate is ’embarrassing’ his team mates.
Baines: “The amount of times you see him tracking back and nicking the ball off people and doing that work, it makes a massive difference.
“If you’re not doing it and someone, who is not only giving you loads at top end of field but is also coming back and doing that… It embarrasses you into doing that too.”
On greater reflection, and perhaps just in light of these comments, I can almost wistfully recall Lennon putting in impressively energetic defensive shifts for the side over the last couple of seasons – even if his attacking threat had blunted over time.
Compare that to what we have in his stead and, well, it does pose an interesting question or two.
Townsend has the pace to burn, no doubting that, but can anyone seriously make a case for him being the better player at the same stage of their careers?
If Pochettino wants to play a pressing game – I’ve read it even if I haven’t seen it consistently materialise – would Lennon’s rejuvenation under Martinez at Everton make him a better fit than the options we have at present?
I’m not a revisionist. I don’t think anyone could get the same tune out of Lennon that Jol and others managed in his early career. But the frustration I’ve felt in recent games has got me thinking that whilst he’s not the answer, is he an option worth revisiting?
I’m happy to be shot down. Christ we’ve all got axes to grind, but some of us have far more damaging views on how to fix things – the #PochOut crowd, for example, seem to have learnt nothing from the last ten years.
With that in mind I’m happy to be out on a limb here.