It was twelve months ago today that Hugo Lloris finally claimed the Tottenham goalkeeping position as his own. It was unfortunate that the occasion was marked in difficult circumstances as Spurs lost at the Emirates with ten-man Tottenham conceding five goals in another heavy defeat to Arsenal. Since then Lloris has proved himself to be one of the best Tottenham goalkeepers.
Hugo Lloris was signed from Lyon at the end of August, 2012 but Andre Villas-Boas decided that the French international captain should wait before taking over in the Spurs goal. On his arrival at White Hart Lane, Lloris discovered that the then 41-year-old Brad Friedel was not going to give up his number 1 position easily as he added to his record run of consecutive Premier League appearances stretching back over 9 seasons and three clubs. On the day after Lloris was signed Friedel won the Man of the Match award for his display against Norwich and he continued to perform well as Spurs won at Old Trafford for the first time since 1989.
Having played in the Europa League matches, AVB decided to bring Friedel’s run to an end at 310 matches and introduced Lloris for his League debut at home to Aston Villa at the beginning of October. Friedel returned to the team after the next international break but on 17th November, Lloris stepped out at the Emirates having taken over as Tottenham’s first choice goalkeeper. Since then he has only missed two league matches through injury and this season is retaining his position for the European matches as well.
While conceding five was not the result that Lloris would have wanted to mark his introduction as first choice, he was not at fault for any of the goals as Spurs were over-run by Arsenal who took full advantage of having the extra man for over 70 minutes after Emmanuel Adebayor’s early dismissal. In the past year Lloris has gone on to show why he is one of the top goalkeepers in the Premier League and on current form, possibly the best.
Best Tottenham Goalkeeper Since….
The history of Tottenham shows that there have had many outstanding goalkeepers who have served the club successfully for lengthy periods. From the resumption of League football after the Second World War until 1976 was a golden era for Tottenham goalkeepers. In that period Spurs used only ten goalkeepers. For two of them their debut was their only appearance for Spurs, two others played in just 5 games between them and three made less than 90 appearances each. Of Spurs 1302 League games in that period, 3 keepers played in 83% of the games. From then until the present day numerous players have appeared in goal but no-one has achieved the high level of consistency and standards set in the previous era. Hugo Lloris, however, has shown that he could join the ranks as one of the best Tottenham goalkeepers.I am fortunate that I grew up with my fellow countryman, Pat Jennings as my schoolboy hero. I saw Jennings develop into a world-class goalkeeper with Spurs and perform many heroics for Tottenham and Northern Ireland. Spurs haven’t had a goalkeeper of his calibre since he last pulled on a Tottenham shirt and he is probably the best goalkeeper to have played for the club.
Older supporters will remind me of the excellent performances of Ted Ditchburn who served Tottenham from the mid-1940s through to the late 1950s. Bill Brown who replaced him played a significant part in the success of the ‘Double’ team and the early 1960s and is also a worthy contender for recognition but for me Pat Jennings is simply the best.
Pat Jennings set the standard for Tottenham goalkeepers and it was a sad day for when Keith Burkinshaw made the rash decision that Pat had seen his best days and transferred him. Over the years since then only a few goalkeepers have come close to reaching his high level of competence.
Ray Clemence, Erik Thorstvedt, Neil Sullivan in his first season and Paul Robinson at his best came close but none could bring that calm composure, outstanding catching ability, amazing positional sense, breath-taking saves and consistency which were a regular feature of Jennings’ performances. Clemence possibly came closest but when he signed for Spurs he was already a year older than Jennings had been when he left for Arsenal. Clemence had his best years at Liverpool but served Spurs well over seven seasons. Thorstevdt was a great hero with the fans and both Sullivan and Robinson had outstanding periods with the club before it eventually fell away.
Now, however, we have a goalkeeper in Hugo Lloris who could become the best goalkeeper since Jennings and through time if he remains at White Hart Lane could rival Jennings.
In the opening months of this season we have seen the best of Hugo Lloris. He has kept 11 clean sheets in 14 appearances and his consistency becomes evident as he has conceded only 6 goals in his last 12 Premier League matches stretching back to the end of last season.The presence of Lloris in goal gives a confidence to his defenders and the whole team. His alertness to danger and speed at coming off his line to clear an trough ball is an aspect of his game which is reminiscent of Ray Clemence at his best with Liverpool when he played as a sweeper behind his back four. With AVB having Tottenham playing a high back-line, Lloris is ideally suited for this role.
Lloris has shown his bravery on more than one occasion in his short time with Spurs. Remember his challenge with Michu for a high ball at the edge of his area late in last season’s win over Swansea at the Lane. His speed off the line to save at the feet of strikers is electric and fraught with danger as he discovered against Everton. Having taken a blow to the head which reportedly left him unconscious for a short period, he insisted on playing out the final minutes of the game when he made a number of important interventions. His bravery brought problems for Andre Villas-Boas who allowed him to stay on the pitch.
Lloris’ ability to deal with crosses is a bonus for his defenders as they know that their goalkeeper will come out to claim or clear the ball under the most difficult of circumstances. He may not have the ability of Jennings in catching a cross in one hand but he he certainly knows how to punch it clear whether it be in the six-yard box or on the edge of the penalty box. When under pressure at corners and set-pieces, he is not distracted by opposing players around him and will still get out to clear the ball.
In the current defensive set-up, Lloris has not been required to make a great number of saves but when called upon can be relied upon to produce the save to keep his goal in tact. Often it is his speed at getting out to face the striker which prevents him from having to make a save as he has closed the striker down so quickly. With a goalkeeper who is giving his all, defenders are more inclined to give that extra effort when a goal-line clearance or a last gasp block is required.
The past year has seen Hugo Lloris grow into one of the best Tottenham goalkeepers for some time and with continued performances at the levels he’s set, he could become one of the very best and rank alongside the legendary Pat Jennings, Ted Ditchburn and Bill Brown.