Hugo Lloris Is so Vital to Tottenham Because of His Growing Stature
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After initially waiting his turn behind an in-form Brad Friedel, the 2012 summer signing from Olympique Lyonnais quickly settled into life in England.
Early on this time around, there has been little to suggest France's No. 1 will not continue to thrive as his club's first choice.
Establishing just where Lloris stands in comparison to his Premier League peers is difficult. The fluctuation of a goalkeeper's involvement in a single match make it so statistics do not always tell the whole story of their contributions.
In Spurs' 1-0 win over Cardiff City for instance, Lloris was not required to make a single save as the home side failed to get a shot on target.
The team in front of him were largely responsible for keeping Cardiff out. On one occasion when his defense was cut through though, he was alert enough to spring forward and deny Fraizer Campbell—even if in doing so his possible handling of the ball just outside the penalty area went unpunished by the officials.
For shot-stoppers, keeping a clean sheet is naturally enough a point of pride. Lloris has kept more (four) at this point than any of those goalkeepers whose teams last season finished in the top four (i.e. those clubs Tottenham intend to compete with).
In comparison, Wojciech Szczesny may have only kept one shutout (ironically against Spurs), but beyond the Pole's own ego it has not mattered so much. His table-topping Arsenal side have won five of their seven Premier League games regardless, performing solidly enough defensively to back up the exciting performances of their attack.
The point of comparison then, among the division's keepers, can only really come from his value to his own team. And Lloris is certainly just as important to the Tottenham cause as say, Petr Cech is to Chelsea, or Joe Hart (despite his recent difficulties) is to Manchester City.
It is Lloris' growing stature as a reliable and highly skilled custodian between the sticks for Tottenham that makes him so vital.
The importance of a top-quality goalkeeper to teams with lofty aspirations like the North Londoners has often been cited.
Peter Shilton's signing in 1977-'78 is regarded as a crucial piece of the jigsaw in Nottingham Forest's extraordinary title-winning campaign that year (he was also voted PFA Player of the Year). More recently, Manchester United's struggle to replace Peter Schmeichel contributed to a comparatively lean spell for Sir Alex Ferguson's Red Devils. It was a deficiency that was only solved six years after the Dane's departure by the purchase of longtime Netherlands international Edwin van der Sar.
Lloris was signed by Spurs with the intention he would be their goalkeeper for the long term. Almost from the off, his general skill set and commanding style have suggested he could fulfill that hope.
Fundamentally sound, he is also—as has been much discussed this last year—quick, alert and smart enough in his judgements to be the ideal last line of defense behind his manager Andre Villas-Boas' preferred high line.
The latter especially is one of the key ways in which Lloris' stature manifests itself. In the aforementioned Campbell incident, and also in similarly stopping Arsenal's Theo Walcott weeks earlier, he was assured enough of his own ability in a testing situation to take the initiative.
Spurs are attempting to establish their identity post-Gareth Bale. Others like Michael Dawson offer more traditional leadership, but characters who embody big-game mentality and supreme confidence are just as necessary.
Lloris provides that. Be it in those heart-stopping one-on-ones where he races out of his box, or the authority he has assumed in commanding his box. Squawka.com notes this season he has a 100 percent average claim success, while his average punch rate of 71 percent is among the highest in the league.
Dominating one's area is done in different ways of course—Lloris' penchant for punching speaks of his safety-first approach, particularly at dead-ball situations—but for the most part it is working for Tottenham.
Stature is in large part a product of performances on the pitch, and the 26-year-old has more than earned that over his relatively short career thus far. There is also something of Lloris' character that suggests he will be a key component of the Spurs team for some time to come.
That will be tested over time, but early signs are promising than in Lloris, the club has an all-round goalkeeper truly capable of carrying on the legacy left by past greats like Bill Brown, Pat Jennings and Ray Clemence.
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