So you think the problem is at left back?

21
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

In a previous article (All the right defenders but not necessarily in the right order?) I briefly touched on the shortcomings of Aaron Lennon. It does not please me to list these and I wish it were not like this, but the issues are as follows.

•    Inability or unwillingness to take corners and free kicks (or following orders – but who would give such orders and why?).

o    Wasting taller front men at the corner post. They need to be in the box and Lennon should be delivering the corners.

o    Wasting players who should be in the box but are instead taking free kicks that Lennon should be able to take.

•    Seeming inability to produce final product, with some (sometimes) lovely play resulting in nothing, or worse, resulting in dangerous counter attacks.

•    Relative inability to cope with the rough stuff.

What are the alternatives? Chadli, Lamela and Sigurdsson could be suggested. I propose something very different: Kyle Walker. ‘What madness is this?’ I hear you cry.

Before I go on to try to defend my sanity, let’s get to the title of this article. The issues of strikers and left backs and even centre backs have been discussed many times. There is relatively little discussed about the right back position. Is that because all is well? I think not. Walker is a decent enough right back, though he has faults, but which of them doesn’t? I am pretty happy with him but I there may be arguments against, which would make matters even worse. Walker has made some serious errors of judgement that have lead to goals but these are not frequent. Leaving that aside for now, if Walker were injured what alternatives are available? Kyle Naughton seems to be the obvious choice but would he be your first choice as right back? Is he PL standard for game after game? I would suggest not. We do not have proper cover for the right back position.

Moving on, I am going to argue the case that Walker would make a better winger than Lennon. We have seen a previous left back become a winger and do ok, and no one would have predicted that finished product (actually I did … honestly …). Why not see if we can do something similar on the other side of the pitch?

Stats come from Squawka.

Walker has an overall Performance Score of 358 over 23 games. This includes three significantly negative scores, one for the 6-0 defeat at MC, one for the home game against MU, which saw Walker fail to control the ball that resulted in a Rooney goal, and one for the 5-1 defeat at home to MC. The two MC games saw poor overall team performances and Walker’s negative scores for those games should be considered in that light. Also, in the MU game Walker scored one of our two goals. Lennon has an overall Performance Score of 213 over 15 games. The following tables show comparisons of the two players.

Table 1: Average Performance Scores

Overall

Defence

Attack

Possession

Lennon

14.2

3.1

9.5

1.6

Walker

15.6

5.5

7.8

2.2

 

Table 2: Goals and Passes

Total

Goals

Total Chances Created

Average Pass Accuracy

Average Defensive Actions

Lennon

1

24

84%

1

Walker

1

28

83%

6

So what do these stats show? Very simply, Walker is a better player overall than Lennon and if Walker were relieved of his right back duties to play right wing, he would be a better option than Lennon.  He would easily double his chance rate and he would get on the score sheet regularly. He would deliver that final ball, take corners, take free kicks and shrug off the rough stuff. He has created 1.2 chances per game against Lennon’s 1.6, but Walker has been defending. Walker would also be much more willing and able than Lennon to track back.

By the way, to enable this to be considered as part of a bigger picture, Dembele has an average overall performance score per game of 30.2, Nani scores 2.4 per game, Valencia 6.55 per game and Navas 29 per game.

Walker would have to learn that he cannot do everything and would need to rely on the player behind him, which brings me to the point. Let’s suppose for a crazy moment that you buy into my madness. Who would replace Walker at right back?

For the immediate future, I hope Lennon plays on Sunday, scores a hat trick (or provides the passes for Soldado to grab one) and forces me to eat my words. I honestly would be delighted.

COYS

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Brian has been a Spurs supporter from around 1960, so was there for the double, the FA Cup in 1962 and the European Cup Winners Cup in 1963. He admits to having cried when Spurs lost to Benfica in the 1962 European Cup Semi-final and to times when he could weep when watching Spurs for the past few years (but for very different reasons). Brian has been lucky enough to see greats such as Jimmy Greaves, Pat Jennings, Glenn Hoddle and Paul Gascoigne. During the 60s, 70s and 80s Spurs won at least one domestic trophy and one European trophy each decade (with those wonderful all white strip floodlit games). It has taken Brian more than 20 years to realise that may take a while to come back, but hope lives on.

21 COMMENTS

  1. you make a very good point, may i just also say that many of our problems are giving away corners and Micheal dawson gives far too may of them away. If you have time i'd like you to find out just how many he has given this season I believe he just loves a corner.

    • I'm afraid Dawson, nice chap though he is, has the mentality of a 1960 CB, which is clear your area – full stop. Hence the desperate or speculative pumps upfield and giving away so many corners. Vertonghen and Chiriches represent the modern thinking and the contrast is huge. That's not taking anything away from Michael's big heart and 100% commitment. But he's just not good enough and never will be, because it's not a matter of becoming a better player, but of changing his whole way of thinking.

    • 5-3-2 is an excellent setup if you have a squad with defender depth. Rose and Walker would both do well in that system but Townsend and Lennon would suffer. Fredricks looks the part and Fryers looks capable too. Hopefully they both develop into first team contenders. Dawson is struggling this season and costing us points. Chadli is ‘macca’ in my opinion and Siggurdson isn’t a team player. Chiriches, Paulinho, Eriksen, Lamela and Soldado are adapting to the demands of the English game and I see them all being regulars. I feel that we are doing ok all things considered and I am looking forward to the second half of the season…

  2. The role of full back has changed and we all need to understand that. Wherever you put Walker you would need someone with many of his attributes in his place.
    A top 4 team has decent enough central players to allow the Full backs to go forward. Infact that is an imperative. Through much of this season we have not had sufficient strength in the central defensive or midfield areas. More apperances from Sandro and Kaboul would have us well into the top 4 I believe.
    Walker is actually the best Right Back we have had for years. It irratates the shit out of me when a % of Sours fans whine about him. They seem to miss all the great things he does. He's 23 and English for gods sake. He has the ability over the next 5 years to easily become one of the best in his position in European football. How many other teams can say that?
    @Adamw1991

  3. Wow, do you watch spurs play? Lennon always tracks back. If you want to use squawka, check out the difference between his heat map and erikson on the left for the hull game, or chadli and sigurdsson against swansea. and when we have dead ball specialists like erikson. why would lennon take anything?!
    Although however you got there, i do think walker would make a better right winger than right back. good luck picking a replacement though! :)

  4. The problem is centre back (Dawson is awful ) and left wing can't ask erikson to play ther leaves rose isolated not roses fault he's done a brilliant job ther can't understand y Dawson plays every week

  5. 1) Lennon does track back
    2) Only Teddy Sherringham and Darren Anderton have more Premier League assists for Tottenham than Aaron Lennon
    3) The idea that Walker would be pinging in Beckham-esque freekicks and corners if only Lennon wasn't further up the pitch than him is pure fantasy

    I'm sorry, but this idea is a non-starter. It might work for games where we want to give Naughton a game at RB or just rest Lennon, but as a week-in, week-out tactic? No chance.

  6. Left back and the left side are the problems, Rose has given the ball away far too many times and Erikson doesn`t track back, even when Benny was playing at left back he used to go walk abouts and leve the position open. Erikson should play behind the front 2, Lennon on Right Townsend on left, they will also cover the attacking fullbacks. So yes we do need another left back or at least give Fryers a chance to shine

  7. Walker is a fine player, but Lennon on form is a great provider. Just watch Spurs' goal of month for January and look at Lennon's contributions to the second and fourth goals, how he injects the pace, creates space and moves the ball quickly. Why do you want Lennon to take corners when Eriksen has proved himself our best dead ball man? Illogical captain.

  8. This is undeniable: Walker has been POOR the last 2 seasons.
    Lennon has hardly set the world alight this season, but he was injured, then played on the wrong side, and now has a new manager.
    Last season Lennon was top on assists. How you can even begin to suggest that Walker is a better player is beyond me. I could only entertain that suggestion if he was currently playing well, but he most certainly isn't.
    Those who suggest that Walker should play higher up the pitch should realise that a) he looks lost when he is attacking (and defending for that matter), b) when he does attack, then he is becoming the extra man and therefore not marked – whereas Lennon is commonly double-marked. When you see Walker being double marked and see how much he would struggle.
    Lennon DOES track back, and has saved us on numerous occasions. Plus his ball retention is excellent. It may frustrate some that he does not continuously tries to get round the defence, but he picks his moments, and keeps the opposition guessing. Lennon is a more intelligent player than Walker. I just feel that Lennon needs someone to threaten his place in the side.

    Suggesting that Lennon should take free kicks and corners is irrelevant. Van Persie and Suarez take corners. Lennon does not have a powerful foot, so not suited to that. Incidentally, Bale has a powerful foot, and still is not a great corner taker, and he is better served as a target for the corner. You should play players to their strengths. Besides, Lennon's pace is better served as cover for a counter attack when we take corners. Walker's strength is his fitness and pace….which suits him to the wing back role. Use him to get up and down the wing.

    • lennon is utter shit!! for a player who has been in the game for as long as he has been, he should hv been a "world beater" by now, or someone who is close to being one.. as it stands, he is neither of those things.. has not improved in 1 area of his game if u ask me.. Lennon is jus fortunate he is as quick as he is, and at the moment we really dont have a btr option.. chamberlain, walcott, townsend, adam johnson, milner, are all 10 times btr than Lennon at present, have more variation, and have improved in some aspect of their game…

      • I think you're being unfair. Lennon has improved every season he's played for us. We had hoped he would have improved more and become that world-beater you talk about, and with townsend's sudden emergence showing exactly what was lacking in Lennon we saw him to suddenly willing to run at defences, take them on and beat them. But since Townsend has been injured it seems the stimulus to Lennon to perform has been removed and he's reverted back to the unadventurous winger who is far too easy to shut out of a game. That suggests to me he is lazy and needs someone constantly challenging him to spur him into upping his performance. It is dismaying to see a player who is capable of so much more and simply not doing it.

  9. I seem to have seen Lennon doing a lot of defending,maybe I'm wrong,as someone else said why take corners Eriksen is the dead ball boy.Not sure your right on this one.

  10. Thanks to everyone who has responded to date. There are some very good counter arguments on various points. Are we agreed that we do not have much depth in the squad at right back?

    • Walker needs to develop into the World Class RB that he can be. He still makes poitional errors defensively, relying on his pace a little too much, and he infuriatingly continues to pass the ball across the back four when under pressure, ala Liverpool away last season. He started his career producing quality end product when attacking, but this seems to have fallen away more recently. He needs to get back to the form of his first season, but as a RB. Lennon I'm afraid to say has stagnated as the team has improved, and if we are to get into the top four, we need someone who produces more than he does, whilst doing all the good defensive stuff mentioned in other posts. An measure of this is how right wingers in other team have overtaken him in terms of there effectiveness – look at Sterling for Liverpool, and how he is developing in every game he plays.

    • I don't know about lack of depth; there's: Naughton and Fredericks, Kaboul or Chiriches for cover. I thought Adam Smith was going to be a really good RB for us too, but evidently the club didn't agree and now he's gone.
      Meanwhile, at LB, has anybody else thought about the possibility of Chadli? He's big and strong, got pace, crossing ability and ball skills. I reckon he might be a much better bet at LB than on the wing.

  11. Does anyone have the right answer? I feel like none of us can first of all agree On what the problem is. Second I don't think any of us can agree on what the solution is. In my opinion the real problem is Michael Dawson at the back. He's simply way too slow for the Premier league anymore and it's constantly being out run by faster players. I think we need to all take a step back, and realize that Sherwood has had a pretty depleted squad while he's been in charge. Once we get healthy I think the quality and depth of this squad will prove amazing assets for Sherwood.

    • Quite agree, We've been incredibly unlucky with injuries this season (and in the last few), but everybodsy's coming back at just the right time for a strong run up to the end of the season. TS will need to use his squad wisely, to cope with the double challenge of EPL and EL.

  12. A quote from this piece:
    https://www.spurs-web.com/app/stat-attack-tottenham-everton/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stat-attack-tottenham-everton

    “Anyone who watches Tottenham will have noted how much Kyle Walker enjoys getting forward, the pacy right-back always searching for an opportunity to add extra impetus to Spurs’ attacks. Some of his passing statistics are nonetheless a surprise though, with Walker leading the Tottenham squad for total passes completed in the opponent’s half with 646 to his name.”

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