clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Steven Pienaar, Not Aaron Lennon, Should Start Against Manchester City

I'm dead serious you guys
I'm dead serious you guys

The title of this post was probably a bit jarring to a lot of Tottenham Hotspur supporters. After all, we haven't seen much of Steven Pienaar at all lately, much less in huge games with massive trophy implications. He has been slightly disappointing since arriving from Everton, mostly because he can't stay healthy. On Sunday, Tottenham play Manchester City. Their left midfielder is the best playmaker in the world who does not play for Barcelona. Spurs' right midfielder and right back are poor defenders.

Spurs are also without Sandro, and will play two in the center of midfield -- Scott Parker and Luka Modric. Both are solid defensively, but there are only two of them and they are both forward-thinking players. There will not be an excess of bodies in the midfield, nor will there be a true defensive midfielder. There will not be a lot of help on David Silva coming from the middle.

This means that the job to contain him will be left largely to Kyle Walker and, if he starts (and he will), Aaron Lennon. Anyone else have a problem with this?

Emmanuel Adebayor and Rafael Van der Vaart are almost certainly the two worst defenders in Tottenham's first choice XI, but the right sided players are the next two on that list. Walker and Lennon are fantastic athletes who provide a lot going forward with their pace, while Walker's incredible athleticism allows him to mask a number of his defensive deficiencies. There's no reason to believe that a 21-year-old who has improved gradually in each of his seasons as a professional will not become a very solid defender, but that's not going to help Spurs on Sunday.

All that matters is what Walker can do against Silva right now, and that is very little. Lennon does literally nothing tracking back, which is not that much of a knock on him. It simply isn't his game, and it's something he is not asked to do very often for good reason.

The fact that there's ever a debate about who City's best player is boggles my mind, but with Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany both out, there's no question. David Silva is the focal point of this team, with no disrespect intended to the world class Sergio Aguero. Everything revolves around his play. When he is not in the team, City struggles. He is the best player in the world that does not play for Real Madrid or Barcelona. Playing Walker and Lennon against him with no true defensive midfielder to keep an eye out for him cutting inside is an absolute disaster.

And this is where Steven Pienaar comes in. He's not anywhere near the attacking threat of Lennon, but he is one of the Premier League's best defensive wingers. Six months of injury troubles and poor form does not change that. He's gotten a couple of run-outs and it's save to assume that he is currently fit. If he's currently fit, he should play because Spurs need to do something to counter the best player on the pitch. If Sandro was available, then Sandro's added presence to help on Silva might be enough.

But he's not. And because he is not available, Rafael Van der Vaart is a lock to start. Luka Modric will distribute from the center while Gareth Bale will provide width. Unless you have two world class two-way wingers like Bale in your team, sacrifices have to be made somewhere. With Bale, Modric, Van der Vaart and a to be determined striker in the team, that sacrifice should be on the right wing.

There are, of course, solutions other than Pienaar. Playing Lennon in front of Vedran Corluka isn't a terrible idea. I don't love the idea of Kyle Walker at right midfield ahead of Charlie, but I'll accept it. In any event, a right side of Walker and Lennon plus a midfield of Modric and Parker is simply asking to get toasted by Silva in this game. If the lineups come out and Spurs line up as expected, with two central midfielders, Walker and Lennon, throw down a tenner on Silva for man of the match.

Here's to hoping I'm wrong and Kyle Walker has the game of his life this Sunday.