The Portuguese Spurs boss was asked by a reporter whether he believed the competition between the two English wingers at Tottenham this term would impact on their places in the England squad ahead of the World Cup in Brazil next summer.
The reporter had clearly considered his question but the manager too had clearly considered his response. The boss insisted that both were equally important to his plans this season and compared the fight for places at Spurs to their rivals Arsenal’s in the form of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamerlain who, incidentally, will also be fighting for a place on the right flank in Roy Hodgson’s England team.
Of course, as Villas-Boas rightly pointed out, a squad needs more than one player in every position and it’s perfectly normal and natural to have two top players vying for one spot in the starting Xi. That ensures the focus and commitment levels are maintained throughout the season and protects the manager in case of injuries and suspensions.
But, Aaron Lennon has only just returned from injury and, incidentally, in his absence, Andros Townsend has happened to capture the attention of the nation – he is being hailed as the next Gareth Bale by Spurs fans and he is the man of the hour for his country after his sensational goal and performance for England to see them through the World Cup qualifiers.
Lennon was sent on in the 66th minute of Spurs’ 2-0 win at Aston Villa on Sunday and one would expect he’ll be involved in a more significant way once he’s back up to speed in terms of his match fitness but he should be more than a little worried about his place not only in Villas-Boas’ team but Roy Hodgson’s too.
Townsend has scored two goals and made three assists in 9 appearances in all competitions for Spurs so far this season and his energy, his technique, his pace and his tenacity has really made Spurs much more dynamic as a team – even with the massive arrivals of Erik Lamela, Nacer Chadli, Christian Eriksen, and Roberto Soldado, it’s been homegrown Townsend taking all the plaudits.
In 46 appearances in total for Tottenham last season, Aaron Lennon managed just 4 goals and 9 assists – the sensational season Gareth Bale had effectively took not only the limelight away from him but also the spotlight that otherwise might have fallen on him – had Bale have not been in such a force I imagine their might have been more questions asked of Lennon.
Compare that, for example, to Walcott who scored 21 goals and made 17 assists for Arsenal across all competitions and you start to see where Lennon may have some struggles to earn his selection for his country.
He’s 26 now and whilst he has had some very impressive performances for England across his 21 caps, he still hasn’t fully cemented his position on the right flank – in fact that position over the past five or six years has never really belonged to one player. The likes of Walcott, Chamberlain, Lennon, now Townsend and even Adam Johnson have featured there and impressed but none of them really made it their own. Until now, perhaps.
Given that Townsend was so instrumental in getting England to the World Cup, I would imagine, so long as he’s fit, he’ll be selected next summer by which point you would expect Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain to have returned from injury at Arsenal. Johnson has pretty much fallen out of favour since he left Manchester City and Raheem Sterling and Wilfried Zaha are probably just slightly too young at this stage.
It’s hard to see where Lennon is going to get into Hodgson’s starting XI now that Townsend has burst onto the scene – he’s 22, he’s got all the ingredients of a star and if he keeps performing at that level for Spurs, he’ll be ahead of Lennon in the pecking order at White Hart Lane which could be very bad news for Lennon and his hopes of making the plane to Brazil.