Why Lennon, Not Bale, Will Be Tottenham's Star Against Inter

The Welshman has been in scintillating form for Spurs this season, but it's Aaron Lennon that will cause Inter problems at White Hart Lane.
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The Welshman has been in scintillating form for Spurs this season, but it's Aaron Lennon that will cause Inter problems at White Hart Lane.


In 2011, reports in the media suggested that Inter Milan were to launch a big money bid for Tottenham Hotspur winger Gareth Bale. The stories emerged after the Welshman had netted a hat trick against the Nerazzurri in the 4-3 defeat to the Serie A side, before following that up with an career defining performance in the 3-1 return fixture at White Hart Lane during Spurs' only Champions League showing to date.

That evening spurned the famous 'Taxi For Maicon!' chant that became associated with the Brazilian full-back, now of Manchester City, and saw speculation suggest that Inter were to bid £40m for the Wales international.

While the reports were, unsurprisingly, fabricated, it all but confirmed that the encounter was, effectively, the beginning of the rise of Bale. Fast forward to the present day, and the 23-year-old is being discussed in the same breath as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, perhaps prematurely to some.

Yet, when Mousa Dembele struck late on against Lyon to confirm Spurs' place in the last 16 of the Europa League, following Inter's routine 5-0 aggregate win over CFR Cluj, fans were understandably excited about the Italian side returning to London.

“We need to be very careful about Bale, but it's Tottenham vs Inter, not Bale vs Inter,” head coach Andrea Stramaccioni said in his pre-match press conference on Wednesday and he's absolutely correct; the last time a team focused their efforts on halting the winger - the 1-1 draw with Manchester United at White Hart Lane - his teammates excelled, most notably Aaron Lennon.

The former Leeds United wideman, following his winner over Arsenal on Sunday, has netted 29 goals since signing for Spurs in 2005, during which time the club have won every time he's scored. With it being argued that Lennon is enjoying his most prolific season to date, interest from tonight's opponents Inter comes as no shock.


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Regardless of his impressive form, however, it is Bale that has been stealing the plaudits and deservedly so, it has to be said. The Welshman is odds on favourite to secure the PFA Player of the Year award at the end of the season and much of the shine has been taken off Lennon as a result.

Yet, if Inter target him, the likes of Lennon will capitalise. Furthermore, with no Maicon with the club anymore, Bale will likely come up against Javier Zanetti. The gladiatorial 39-year-old continues to perform like a player 10 years his junior, but remains defensively and positionally more astute than his former teammate.

Add to the injury worries in the Nerazzurri camp - Walter Samuel, Andrea Ranocchia and Matias Silvestre all expected to sit out - and it's more than likely that the veteran defender will sit deeper in order to provide the experience in the backline that could consist of Juan Jesus, Esteban Cambiasso and Alvaro Pereira, should Stramaccioni persist with a 4-4-2.

The latter of the back four will only be starting due to injury to Yuto Nagatomo. The Japan international is expected to miss the next two three weeks with a knee injury, meaning the former FC Porto man will deputise for the regular starter.

His insistence to push forward and lack of awareness defensively means Lennon will have the opportunity to capitalise on the space behind the 27-year-old, something Andre Villas-Boas would likely have told the Spurs man having worked with Pereira for a season, not to mention his time with Inter as Jose Mourinho's assistant in Milan for a year before returning to Portugal in 2009.

Bale will be key in the encounter at White Hart Lane, don't get me wrong, but up against Zanetti will be nowhere as easy as it was against Maicon in 2010. Releasing Lennon in behind Pereira, whose disciplinary record leaves a lot to be desired, could well be key to Villas-Boas' gameplan.

While there are full-backs who know how to keep Lennon quiet throughout an encounter, Spurs fans, come full time, could well be chanting 'Taxi For Pereira!', if the 25-year-old pulls out a performance reminiscent to that of the stalemate with United in January.