Hugo Lloris: Is it time for the Spurs man to be dropped?
The Frenchman was at fault again on Sunday. But is he really such a calamity for Spurs?
Tottenham’s emergence as the best team in North London was completed by a thousand cuts. One of the first, however, was the signature of Lyon goalkeeper Hugo Lloris back in2012.
Arsène Wenger had been interested in the former Nice man, but his dithering allowed Harry Redknapp’s team to pounce. The Frenchman has been a constant in the Tottenham goals ever since, whilst the Gunners flailed between the catastrophes of Wojciech Szczęsny and David Ospina.
This season, however, Lloris has come under sustained criticism for his performances. Against Chelsea on Sunday, he was at fault for Alvaro Morata’s consolation goal, hopelessly out of position as the Spaniard nodded in from Victor Moses’ cross. Only Asmir Begovic and Petr Cech have made more errors leading to goals in this campaign, with Lloris ahead even of the jocular Joe Hart.
The question, though, is this–should Spurs be reconsidering Lloris’ place in the team?
Not quite. According to a study by the CIES Football Observatory, the Frenchman is the best-performing goalkeeper across Europe’s major leagues. He’s kept clean sheets against Arsenal and Manchester United, appearing calm and unruffled frequently this season. Against Real Madrid at the Bernabéu in October, he was the chief reason for Tottenham’s emergence with a point. On the night, outstanding saves from Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo had Mauricio Pochettino purring.
“Hugo was fantastic,” said the Argentine. “He deserves big praise from everyone. He showed his real level. You had the opportunity to see why Hugo is one of the best goalkeepers in the world.“
Therein lies the rub. Lloris is a goalkeeper who usually goes unnoticed. Flamboyant saves aren’t his thing; nor are the deftly swiped passes or extravagant punches so favoured by some of his contemporaries. He is the epitome of quiet solidity, and it speaks volumes that it has taken five years in the Premier League before the former Lyonnais has been called into question. Praise from his manager is so uncommon because it is so rarely needed; his job is carried out with a minimum of fuss, his net guarded with an unperturbed simplicity.
Lloris is similarly unassailable for the national team, for whom he is also the captain. He is one of several untouchables in Didier Deschamps’ side, a starter for almost a decade despite competition from Steve Mandanda and Alphonse Aréola.
He might be having a dip in form, but at 31 Lloris is young enough to overcome such qualms and guard the Tottenham goals for close to another decade, too.
“We want a trophy because we deserve a trophy,” he told the Associated Press last week. The remarks were bold in their ambition, but they also give a peek into a mentality that, before his arrival at White Hart Lane, wasn’t that ubiquitous. Lloris arrived into a squad containing Sandro, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Younes Kaboul. He is one of only four survivors from that side and – like Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Jan Vertonghen – his game has evolved a thousand-fold.
It makes the reaction of some Spurs fans on social media that bit harder to take. ‘Bottler’ and ‘coward’ were two of the most popular epithets on display on Sunday evening. Look closer, however, and those same fans will realise just how important Hugo Lloris is for their side. He might only make the headlines when he commits an error, but it’s time they appreciated the yawning silences between them.
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