This is by Dan Fitch
A regular annoyance for the football media is that the figures within the game don’t always follow the script, even when it clearly makes for the best story.
So before last week’s game between Tottenham and Lyon at White Hart Lane, I read a number of pieces on Hugo Lloris and how he has adapted to life in London, following his transfer from Les Gones to Spurs.
It was the obvious story to run with ahead of the match, only Andre Villas-Boas spoiled things by picking Brad Friedel to start in Tottenham’s eventual 2-1 win over Lyon.
I guess that in itself proved how things have turned around for Lloris at Spurs. Earlier on in the season, Friedel was the first-choice in the Premier League, while the French international had to be content with appearances in the cups. Now the roles are reversed.
As much as I rate Friedel and think that it’s important that a reserve goalkeeper is given games to keep himself fresh, I hope that AVB decides to recall Lloris for Thursday’s trip to his old hunting ground.
That’s not a desire borne from a want to make this copy more relevant. It’s because Lloris can make a real difference to way that Spurs play.
I can’t think of a goalkeeper more suited to a high-line defence than Lloris. He’s so alert to danger and is athletic enough to quickly rush out of his box to do something about it.
Friedel has many qualities, but leaving his line isn’t one of them. With Lloris in goal Tottenham look more assured when defending set-pieces. The goal area is his domain and Lloris protects it with real confidence. All of it.
There was a moment in Tottenham’s loss to Everton before Christmas, when Lloris came out to clear a moment of danger right on the corner edge of the box. Friedel just wouldn’t have the mobility or alertness to have got there. In fact, there are very few goalkeepers who would have.
But Lloris isn’t just the best goalkeeper at Spurs, he’s fast becoming the best in the entire Premier League.
Who else would you rather have? David de Gea is a phenomenal shot-stopper, but has failed to adapt to the physical nature of the Premier League as quickly as Lloris (admittedly he’s younger and less experienced).
Pepe Reina is no longer the assured figure that he once was for Liverpool. Wojciech Szczesny’s recent form makes a mockery of the assertion that Arsenal have solved their long-standing goalkeeper problems.
No, the only keepers you can compare with Lloris in terms of quality, are Manchester City’s Joe Hart and Chelsea’s Petr Cech.
Hart’s form has slipped this season, but he’s young, talented and confident enough to get back to his best. Meanwhile, Cech seems to be back to near his best form, after some seasons of apparent decline. Yet at 30, he faces a battle to keep his place, with the on-loan Thibaut Courtois looking likely to be Cech’s successor sooner rather than later.
Clearly there’s a battle ahead, but by next season, the wider public will be talking about Lloris as the Premier League’s top keeper.
That can only be good news for Spurs. Great teams are built on great goalkeepers. In Lloris, Tottenham might just have found one for the next decade.