Aaron Lennon and Andros Townsend have both started for Spurs on the right of AVB’s 4-3-3 this season, but is one more suited than the other?
Aaron Lennon is more of a traditional winger than a wide forward. He likes to receive the ball to feet, then quickly go through the gears as he attempts to take the opposing full back on before crossing.
He’s had to adapt his style since the arrival of Andre Villas-Boas. With the Portuguese coach wanting our wide players to receive possession on the run, Lennon had to change up his game last season.
The England international got the start in our trip to Crystal Palace and with him in the side, we can see the width he brings to the position. The ball is moved out from the middle of the park to Aaron playing close to the touchline. He takes a lot of possession midway inside the Palace half, but he also receives passes played in-behind the opposing full back.
From here, he can dribble and either cross or pull the ball back. He set up a chance for Roberto Soldado, but also had four others blocked, indicated by the red lines inside the penalty area.
Another thing of note that we saw was that he also recycles possession well. He was trying to get in-behind to pick out crosses from shorter distances, but when the option is not on, he can play the ball backwards to Kyle Walker. Of Lennon’s 47 passes in the match, only 11 were forward and 7 square as the other 29 went backwards to a team mate.
This was further highlighted in his relationship with Kyle Walker. Lennon’s passes usually go back up the line to Kyle, who can pick the passes forward to Aaron.
Whilst Aaron Lennon brings width and dribbling to the position, he is not a shooter. He took only 29 shots in 34 appearances in the Premier League last season.
Whilst Aaron Lennon operates like a traditional winger, Andros Townsend plays the role as an inverted wide forward.
He plays with less width than Aaron and being a natural left footer, looks to come inside a lot more often. If we look at where he received the ball against Swansea, we can see that Townsend spends a lot of time in the inside right channel, whereas Lennon is more out towards the touchline.
Against Tbilisi, Andros was able to get in-behind the full back through dribbling at pace. Against Swansea, as he didn’t receive the ball played in deep, he dribbled infield and therefore his passes in to the box come through the inside right channel. This is more typical of the inverted wide forward than the traditional winger.
As a result of this movement, his relationship with Kyle Walker is different. Playing with Lennon, Kyle doesn’t overlap as much, as he doesn’t need to with the space being filled by Aaron. As a result, most of Walker’s passes are up the line.
Playing with Andros Townsend, Kyle has to provide the outlet as Andros cuts inside. Walker’s passes are short and often infield to Andros. The ones Walker receives are often played deep towards the by line and in-behind the full back.
What Andros Townsend cutting inside does give Spurs is another shooter.
He took 37 strikes at goal in his 17 appearances whilst on loan last season for QPR. He had four by cutting inside and firing diagonally across the goal against Swansea.
Who’s right, Aaron Lennon or Andros Townsend?
The right player really depends on whether we want a winger to fill the position to give added creativity or if we are looking to have another goalscorer.
This could really depend on who plays in the advanced midfield role. With a player that can pass in Gylfi Sigurdsson, Aaron Lennon was the choice. With a more powerful ball winner in Paulinho, Andros Townsend was the selection.
In Andre Villas-Boas’ previous managerial appointments, he has combined a winger with a wide forward. This could hint that a wide man like Aaron Lennon would play opposite a forward like Nacer Chadli.
However, this term we’ve seen our Portuguese coach look to move to a strong, powerful midfield trio that focuses on winning the ball back, then shifting it to the wide players. In this case, the wide forwards need to provide a goal scoring threat, which would favour a player like Andros Townsend.
With AVB playing his more preferred system of 4-3-3 this term, the incumbent of the right-sided role may just depend on the make-up of the midfield trio.