When Roy Hodgson announced his England squad last week there were a number of surprises. Most surprising for me and I am sure a number of England fans was the inclusion of Stewart Downing. This is a player who famously did not score or assist a goal throughout the season.
Equally surprising for me was a player who was left out – our very own Aaron Lennon. Tottenham played their best football of the season when both Lennon and Bale were on the pitch providing width and pace and missed Lennon significantly when he had a prolonged spell on the side-lines. With Bale and Lennon switching sides regularly, he would have been a good player to have available in either his favoured position as a right-winger, but could equally be utilised effectively on the left if need be.
This article takes a look at the players that made it into Hodgson’s squad and one that was very unfortunate to have missed out. In this, the stats of Lennon, Walcott, Downing, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain and the on standby Adam Johnson will be compared.
In terms of game time, despite an injury ravaged season, Lennon spent more time on the pitch than all of the others aside from Walcott and Downing. In all, he played 1581 minutes comprising of 19 starts and 4 substitute appearances.
Hodgson would be looking towards his attacking players to be able to contribute to scoring goals, lessening the reliance on the out and out strikers. If we look at the players stats, you could argue that Lennon does not carry as much of a goal scoring threat as the others (aside from Downing). Lennon’s 527 mins per goal is slightly worse than Milner at 526 but considerably worse than Walcott and Young who have 343 and 262 respectively. The most effective goal scorer in terms of minutes played was another player who hasn’t made the squad (but is on standby) – Adam Johnson.
But if we look into these stats in greater detail, Lennon is not attempting as many shots as the others that I have used for comparison purposes. He only had 12 shots compared to 58 for Walcott, 48 for Downing and 34 for Young. So if we look at chance conversion, Lennon stands just behind Milner at 25%. This is more impressive than both Walcott (14%) and Young (18%) and considerably better than Downing at 0%. Lennon may not get in the shooting positions that Walcott or Young do, but when he does he is a reasonably effective finisher as 1 in 4 demonstrates.
Aside from scoring goals, it is a wide man’s job to create them for others. One thing Lennon has often been criticised for is his final ball but recently this has improved a lot. Of all the players looked at Lennon had the greatest crossing accuracy with 26%, albeit from significantly fewer crosses than Walcott, Downing and Young. If Lennon can be criticised for his final ball, he is not half as wasteful as Walcott from crossing positions. Walcott only managed 4 more successful crosses than Lennon despite attempting 80 more.
Lennon managed 5 assists and created 39 chances. This equated to a chance every 41 minutes which is only bettered by Young (37) and Johnson (30).
Finally, as well as offering the team an attacking presence, it is also important to help protect full backs. The following looks at the defensive performance of each of the players.
As would be expected, Milner not being an out-and-out winger and a more defensive minded midfielder than the others, has the greatest tackle success rate at 78.05%. Lennon has a success rate of 66.67% which is superior to that of Oxlade-Charberlain (60%) and Johnson (61.45%).
Additionally, it is important to keep hold of the ball to avoid pressure being put on the defence. Keep ball is particularly necessary in international football and Lennon has been very effective at that this season. He has only lost possession 19 times this season which equates to once every 83 minutes. To put this into context, Walcott lost possession every 27 minutes. Downing was the next most effective at keeping the ball, losing possession every 73 minutes.
This is the first time Lennon has not been included in a major tournament for England having been part of the Squad for the World Cups in 2006 and 2010. I may be a little biased but I think he has been very unlucky to miss out this time.
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) See Demo’s and videos about the Stats Centre & read about new additions to the stats centre.