Rightly or wrongly it has been a tough couple of weeks for AVB at Tottenham. On the wrong end of a media barrage and widely scrutinised by many within the game, getting back to Premier League action was a must for the manager.
The critics have been silenced, at least in the short term, by a series of ever more impressive displays from the North Londoners. Back to back wins on the road came after a deserved point at home to the defending champions, and things are beginning to look a bit rosier for Spurs’ helmsman.
It would be wrong of me to suggest that everything is suddenly all well and good at Spurs, because it isn’t. But considering how desperate things seemed only a few weeks ago, you have to hand it to AVB for re-righting an ailing ship.
My issue with Spurs so far this season has always been with their tempo. The best Tottenham teams in years gone by have always attacked with great pace and energy, typically counter attacking and always able to hurt opposition with a flash of brilliance.
Spurs so far this season have been laboured and pensive, no doubt the root of fans frustrations. They have been comfortable in possession throughout, but seemingly loath to do anything more than retain control of the ball. Game after game Tottenham have dominated statistically, but failed to take control on the score-sheet. Unadventurous horizontal passing with no end result in sight, it isn’t surprising that they have struggled to put opposition away.
The return of Aaron Lennon has begun to change all this. A man that is much maligned for his perceived lack of end product, his reappearance has prompted a much-needed change in tempo at Spurs.
Lennon may appear to some a headless chicken, but few would doubt his pace and running ability. With the Englishman in the side you just cannot play a slow and deliberative passing game, his first thought is always to run at his man and try to beat him. Against Fulham and most notably Sunderland, Lennon was the outball, the go to man to get things moving for Spurs.
Townsend and Lamela are wonderfully gifted players and naturally full of pace, but they prefer to rely on their technical abilities ahead of raw pace. Lennon doesn’t have the abilities of these two, but what he does have is an almost unmatchable burst of pace, something that when applied correctly can unlock any defence.
On Saturday it wasn’t the midfield duo dictating the pace of play, it was Lennon. In fact when Spurs took the foot of the gas and invited Sunderland on to them, it was more because the Englishman was tiring rather than anything else. Paulinho for me has been central to Spurs’ midfield negativity, but on Saturday he was a player transformed. Forced to keep up with the forward thrust offered by Lennon, the whole midfield five looked more dynamic than ever.
Spurs have needed that kick, someone to bring back the attacking adventure of years past. Balance is crucial in football, and clearly AVB is still grappling for it. The pace of Lennon out wide appears to be a step in the right direction for Spurs, and for me it is something that is gradually bringing them out of an early season rut.
I understand the frustrations that people have with Lennon, but the impetus he has given Spurs in recent weeks shouldn’t be downplayed.