Tottenham Hotspur: Why Hugo Lloris Has Been as Important as Bale This Season

Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2013

Hugo Lloris has been as integral to Spurs' success this season as anyone else.
Hugo Lloris has been as integral to Spurs' success this season as anyone else.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Gareth Bale's match-winning display against West Ham United has seen him once again dominate the headlines. As integral to Tottenham Hotspur's health as he is right now, accusations that they are a one-man team are wide of the mark.

Mousa Dembele's dynamism in midfield has been invaluable, as has been the toughness Michael Dawson has brought to the team's defense. Others have more than played their part, too.

One man whose contributions have been more low-key than Bale's—but arguably as important—is goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

In comparison to his West Ham counterpart Jussi Jaaskelainen, Lloris was not called into action regularly Monday night. On one occasion in which he was, his quick response saved his team in a manner that Tottenham fans are becoming well used to.

Matt Taylor got the better of Spurs' offside trap and was through on goal. Just as he steadied himself, Lloris raced out and closed him down. It was match-saving moment, as had Taylor scored, the Hammers would have gone 3-1 up.

Lloris' quickness in such situations has served his team well. The defense in front of him has been adjusting to being deployed higher up the pitch, often looking to catch opposition attackers offside. As was seen against West Ham, they have not perfected the art yet.

This is one aspect of a versatile skill set that has so far fared well in the Premier League. As well as compensating for his team's defensive slip-ups, he has quickly adjusted to the speed of English football.

Of his other attributes, Lloris' shot-stopping is obviously a key as well. Coming into the team, there has not been a drop in quality from Brad Friedel in this regard.

The American has been as reliable a goalkeeper as you could find in the Premier League. He proved his class between the posts on more than one occasion last season and early on this campaign too after Lloris had signed.

Lloris has more than matched Friedel for spectacular saves and, more importantly, is looking as consistent when it comes to the whole of a goalkeeper's job. There have been a few spilt shots now and then but not with catastrophic consequences.

That has been impressive considering it is not always easy to come to a new country and excel so quickly. Heurelho Gomes had a torturous opening few months in England with the more physical aspects of life in his new league especially difficult to deal with.

A key contributor to Gomes turning it around (at least for a while) was goalkeeping coach Tony Parks. The former Spurs keeper's vast experience in the English game has likely been helpful in Lloris' smooth transition, as has the healthy competition between him and Friedel.

Of course, before he even arrived at Tottenham, Lloris had proven himself as a first-class goalkeeper, establishing himself as France's No. 1.

Spurs' need for a younger goalkeeper of top quality was known, but even so, the signing of Lloris from Lyon felt like something of an unexpected coup. The immediate benefits of bringing him in have been seen, but his arrival has also felt like the start of something bigger for the club.

The spine of a team is often talked about as being so important. Famously, there was the Cech-Terry-Lampard-Drogba one that proved so successful for Chelsea over so many years. Spurs have some way to go to putting together a backbone as good as that, but Lloris is a big start.

The success of the team over the remainder of this season will influence the pace of that process.

Tottenham can enjoy Lloris in the present, and goodness knows they will be needing him in the months to come, beginning with Arsenal, Sunday. Bale might be the one getting the goals right now, but Lloris is playing a major part in ensuring they are in a position to make the most of them.