From an Everton standpoint, the modus operandi in the loitering embers of the winter transfer window was pace. Someone who replace the raw, capricious, direct void left by Gerard Deulofeu. Maybe someone who could add an effective edge to a ponderous attacking line-up. Perhaps someone hungry and willing to prove himself too.
Aaron Lennon is a man that certainly used to tick all those boxes. The England international winger has been at Spurs for nine years this summer and during his stint at White Hart Lane, he’s thrilled and frustrated in equal measure. But under the watch of Mauricio Pochettino, his stock has plummeted.
The Toffees stepped in to chuck him a lifeline with the clock ticking down on Deadline Day and while the ability of the player himself may split opinion when it comes to the supporters, getting the 27-year-old in on a loan deal on the last day of the window is a piece of business that shouldn’t be shirked at.
Everton, after all, are in lamentable need of replenishment on the flanks. Kevin Mirallas’ form and fitness have oscillated wildly throughout the season, Aiden McGeady prompts a lot more angst than entertainment and—while he’s been banging them in from the touchline for Ghana at the Africa Cup of Nations—Christian Atsu’s loan switch has been a disaster.
In truth, the Toffees have yet to plug Gerard Deulofeu’s spot in this squad. The on-loan Barcelona man was erratic, raw and selfish, but his speed terrified opposition defences. Away from home in particular, he gave Everton an incisive threat on the counter-attack and although Roberto Martinez’s side are often boxed as patient, probing passers, breaking with incision was a critical part of their make-up last season.
So Everton were desperate for a player in this area, Lennon is—or at least should be—desperate to prove himself; it seems to be a no brainer, if not a deal that was conjured purely out of circumstance. But does Lennon really deserve to be bracketed in a “alright then, you’ll do, why on earth not” type of transfer?
It’d certainly be a little unfair on a player who has been a regular at one of the top sides in the Premier League for the best part of a decade. Not to mention a midfielder who was once considered as one of the key components of an England squad containing the vast majority of the ill-fated “Golden Generation”.
It’d be naive to suggest he’s the same player at this juncture, but there’s still something intangibly endearing about Lennon when he picks up the ball and goes past his man. His running style is unique, his burst of pace over five yards incomparable and his work-rate—a vastly understated facet of his game—is admirable.
Granted, he’s not really a cerebral player. Lennon’s end product doesn’t really match his physical qualities and poor decision making in the final third has prevented him from being revered as an elite winger. Anyway, while 26 goals and 53 assists—per transfermarkt.co.uk—is certainly not a dreadful return by any means, you suspect Martinez hasn’t drafted him in with an aim to post credible statistics.
Whether from the bench or from the start, he’ll give Everton an effervescence, he’ll push opponents back and hopefully, his bustling, blistering vertical forays will reawaken a Goodison Park crowd that have been in a perennial lull in recent weeks.
That’s the plan anyway, although if he doesn’t the Toffees are in a position to say “thanks, but no thanks” come the end of the campaign. But there’s a sense that he could well be staying on Merseyside for the long run though, especially if the player is intent on getting his career back on track.
All he needs to do is look at players like Steven Pienaar, Mikel Arteta and Tim Howard. All those men came to Everton with unfulfilled promise from their times with illustrious clubs, seized their opportunity with the Toffees and went on to become very capable Premier League players.
He may not look it in his unveiling pictures, but this should be an opportunity that stirs something in Lennon. At 27 years old, there’s absolutely no reason why Lennon can’t enjoy a comparable renaissance similar to the aforementioned acquisitions.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball
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