Aaron Lennon flew out of the gates this season, looking as if he had adapted well to Andre Villas-Boas new look Spurs.
Now playing as a wide forward in a 4-3-3 rather than as a winger in a 4-4-1-1, Lennon needed to play further up the field and look to get behind full backs.
Early in the season he seemed to be getting this, but in his last few matches, is he starting to fall back in to his midfielder mentality?
Aaron Lennon early season form
Before the season, Aaron Lennon was one of those players who looked as if their place in the side may have been under threat. Often injured and sometimes left out last term, as Andre Villas-Boas came in, so to did the associations with wide forwards who could take his spot in the team.
Loic Remy, Daniel Sturridge, Hulk and Leandro Damiao were all linked with moves to White Hart Lane, but as none materialised, Lennon got his chance to prove himself.
His early season form was good and he was heavily involved on opening day at Newcastle, getting beyond the full backs and also into the penalty area to gain possession of the ball. He even picked out Gareth Bale with a cross, which saw the Welshman plant his header against the bar.
Role on a few weeks to our trip to Reading and Aaron Lennon had one of his best games of the season. It culminated in his role for the first goal, whereby he darted in from wide to pick up a pass from Gylfi Sigurdsson behind the Reading fullback. He then squared for Jermain Defoe to open the scoring.
Aaron Lennon was supplying lots of these cutback balls to create opportunities having received passes through the opposition defence to get him in behind.
Aaron Lennon recent matches
In his last four Premier League matches, Aaron Lennon has started to receive the ball in deeper positions and is not getting beyond the full back to gain possession.
If we look at our trip to Southampton, we can see how he doesn’t receive any passes above the penalty area like he was at the start of the season. He does pass the ball in to this area behind the full back as Kyle Walker jumps up in to the play, but this is only a couple of occasions.
At home to Wigan, we can see a similar thing happening, as Lennon only receives two passes above the penalty area. One is from a corner on the right, the other a throw when he has switched flanks to be on the left. Kyle Walker is also not able to offer him support by overlapping this time.
In the 2-1 loss to Man City at the weekend, Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy really tried to stop Lennon and Bale getting up the flanks whilst City were in a back four. They were successful in doing this, but when City went to a back three, Lennon and Bale should have had more room to get down the outside.
Although we only had 38% possession in the game, Aaron Lennon did not gain possession in behind the opposition full backs like he was doing earlier in the season.
As a result of this, in his last four Premier League matches, his form has really fallen off.
|First 7 PL Games||Last 4 PL Games|
|Mins on pitch||649 mins||373 mins|
|Mins per pass received||3.3 mins||4.1 mins|
|Mins per pass received in attacking 3rd||5.6 mins||9.3 mins|
|Mins per pass received in penalty area||19 mins||46 mins|
|Mins per shot||108 mins||124 mins|
|Passing accuracy attacking 3rd||88%||73%|
|Mins per chance created||34 mins||62 mins|
In his first seven Premier League matches, Aaron Lennon was playing higher up the pitch and was receiving the ball every 3.3 minutes. This would equate to an average of 27 passes received per match. In his last four Premier League games, Lennon is receiving the ball every 4.1 minutes, which is an average of 22 passes, a drop off of 5 passes on average per game.
This is a decent amount, but it is accentuated further when we look at passes received in the attacking third, which has dropped from getting the ball every 5.6 to 9.3 minutes. This is a decrease of 7 passes received per match in the final third of the field, an alarming drop off. Aaron Lennon is not a big goal scoring threat, but as a result, his minutes per shot have increased and his minute per cross has almost tripled. Interestingly he has failed to complete a single cross in his last four Premier League matches.
His passing accuracy has also declined; deteriorating from an excellent 90% in the first 7 Premier League games, to just 76% recently. The fall in the final third from 88% to 73% is also an indicator of why his chance creation has dropped. He was generating a scoring opportunity every 34 minutes in his first seven Premier League matches, recently that is down to every 62 minutes.
If we look at an average position map we can see how he is much deeper for the last four Premier League games. The green circles are his most recent four matches; the faded yellow ones are the previous seven. Some of the circles are towards the middle due to the fact that he switched wings during the match, but his average position was still much further forward.
Is Aaron Lennon slowing down after a promising start?
There are a number of factors that could be contributing to the recent drop off in form of Aaron Lennon.
These could include the fact that Moussa Dembele has missed the last four matches, meaning we are missing a driving force from the middle of the park. Since then, Tom Huddlestone has come in and he prefers to drop deep and pass, rather than maraud forward with the ball like the Belgian. This could result in Lennon coming deeper to gain possession, negating his ability to get in behind the opposition full back as he was previously doing.
Spurs were also dominating possession earlier in the season, having an average of 51% per match as we looked to play a ball retention game. In the last four matches, we have only averaged 45% possession against Man City, Wigan, Southampton and Chelsea, as we have adopted a more counter attacking style recently.
Lennon has also been suffering from more attention from opposition full backs. He has been doubled up on, whilst Chelsea used Ashley Cole against him and Man City tried to jam him to receive possession further back.
Whatever the factors may be, Aaron Lennon is not getting forward enough and in to the advanced areas behind the opposition full back that he was earlier in the season.
He is getting less of the ball and in less advanced areas of the pitch.
Aaron Lennon never was much of a shooter or a goalscorer, but his passing and chance creation have dropped dramatically in the last four matches. His cross completion falling from a very average 15% to 0% is one of the biggest signs of his fall off in productivity.
The place of Aaron Lennon in the team may not be at threat just yet, but when key players return from injury, if he doesn’t pick up his form, he could find himself on the bench. Somewhere he may have expected to be when Spurs were linked with a number of wide forwards at the start of the season.