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Lee Dixon's tactical view

Jermain Defoe grabbed the headlines by scoring five goals in Tottenham's 9-1 hammering of Wigan - but it was the performance of right winger Aaron Lennon that really stood out.

I wanted to see how he would work his opposing full-back and he tore Erik Edman to pieces, providing assists for three of the goals and scoring one himself.

At one point late in the game Edman gave the ball away with a poor pass and within seconds Tottenham had scored. This was in part because his confidence had been dismantled by Lennon.

I played at right-back for Arsenal and at the start of every game I would try to ensure that the winger I was marking did not get the upper hand.

But at White Hart Lane on Sunday Lennon had the ball at his feet and was running at Edman inside the first minute.

Lennon delivered several telling crosses within the opening few minutes - giving Edman a real problem because as a full-back if the opposition supply line is coming from your side then something is clearly not right.


If a full-back is struggling against a winger he sometimes needs to take a chance and tightly mark his opponent to try to shut them out of the game.

When I was playing I would sometimes say to Tony Adams that he would have to look after himself for 10 minutes because I would not be marking space, only the winger.

Part of the problem for Edman on Sunday was that Lennon is the type of player who likes to play with chalk on his boots, hugging the touchline.

As a full-back you have other defensive duties in addition to your battle with the winger you are up against - but if he is playing very wide then you are forced to make a decision. You have to do something.

But if Edman opted to mark Lennon tightly he would leave a lot of space between himself and the closest central defender.

Edman's poor decision making was a result of the doubt in his mind created by Lennon's positional play

Lee Dixon

He would then need the rest of the defence to slide across to ensure there were not any gaping holes.

John Barnes was brilliant at this sort of thing. He would stand on the touchline so I would deliberately mark him tightly. He would then come in-field 10 yards. This caused me a real problem because if I followed him I would leave a big space behind me for other players to exploit.

I was fortunate in that I had Ray Parlour in front of me for a lot of my Arsenal career and could rely on him to do a lot of defensive work.

Ultimately Edman needed to make a decision on Sunday and a spell of man-to-man marking would have at least asked some questions of Lennon.

However, unable to cope with Lennon's pace and clever movement, he became ultra cautious.

Standing off a player like Lennon is a very dangerous option because you then allow him to run at you or hold his position and cross the ball.

Edman's poor decision making was a result of the doubt in his mind created by Lennon's positional play.

Aaron Lennon (right) shoots beyond Wigan's Erik Edman
Lennon's positional play gave Edman nightmares at White Hart Lane

Having a player like Lennon also gives a team's providers more options.

For example, when I played with a more defensive midfielder like Parlour my first option in possession would always be to see whether I could hit the front man, usually Dennis Bergkamp.

If I had somebody like Lennon, an out-and-out winger in front of me, I would perhaps look at playing the ball to him first.

Lennon has always had blistering pace but what is increasingly evident is that he has learnt how to use it.

Earlier in his career he did not know when to use his change of pace and would occasionally be in a position where he was running too quickly when he tried to cross the ball.

Part of the criticism that Lennon once suffered was that his supply was patchy but I think that he has worked out this part of his game.

It makes him a much more dangerous player and I think he has the sort of footballing intelligence to work things out for himself during a game. This is the sort of quality that England coach Fabio Capello wants to see from his players.

I think that Lennon is an absolute shoo-in for England's World Cup squad and I would probably expect him to start in South Africa.

Lee Dixon was talking to BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher.

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see also
Tottenham 9-1 Wigan
22 Nov 09 |  Premier League
Defoe 'best finisher in England'
23 Nov 09 |  Premier League
Martinez embarrassed after defeat
22 Nov 09 |  Wigan
Capello recalls Crouch and Lennon
30 Aug 09 |  Internationals
Lee Dixon's tactical view
09 Nov 09 |  Premier League
Lee Dixon's tactical view
19 Oct 09 |  Premier League

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