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Tottenham Hotspur: Why AVB Isn't to Blame for Lloris Furore

Hugo Lloris watches on following his blow to the head in Tottenham Hotspur's 0-0 with Everton.
Hugo Lloris watches on following his blow to the head in Tottenham Hotspur's 0-0 with Everton.Tony Marshall/Getty Images
Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistNovember 11, 2013

Barely seven days after the initial incident had dominated the football news cycle, the Hugo Lloris injury furore was given further life when he was rested for Tottenham Hotspur's 1-0 loss to Newcastle United on Sunday.

Against Everton the previous weekend, Lloris kept playing despite being temporarily knocked unconscious in a collision with Romelu Lukaku.

The resulting media storm saw Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas and the club's medical staff's decision not to substitute the goalkeeper criticised by (among others) brain injury association Headway and FIFA's chief medical officer, Professor Jiri Dvorak—as reported by BBC Sport.

Villas-Boas could hide from the cold last week but not the furore caused by Lloris' injury.
Villas-Boas could hide from the cold last week but not the furore caused by Lloris' injury.Ian Walton/Getty Images

Despite Villas-Boas coming to the defence of his medical department, Lloris not playing the two games since the original blow to the head has led to further questioning in his post-match press conference about whether Spurs were in the wrong risking letting him continue.

Those who attacked the North London club were—at least to a certain extent—coming from the right place in their concern over Lloris' health, given the potential severity of head injuries. Though, as The Observer's Tim Adams noted, FIFA's "unusually speedy response" may have also stemmed from them wanting to appear proactive in response to the growing trend for injury-related litigation in sports.

That is a highly complicated subject in its own right. The convoluted relationship between sporting competitiveness and potential injury does though speak to why Spurs' involved parties should not be blamed for what happened with Lloris.

After the event at Goodison Park, Tottenham's head of medical services, Wayne Diesel, told the club's website:

Once the relevant tests and assessments were carried out we were totally satisfied that he was fit to continue playing.

Some might view this skeptically in a win-at-all-costs climate, but without conflicting information you have to believe Spurs' medical staff were willing to accept Lloris' wish to safely continue playing. Seemingly, the desire to substitute him was cautionary rather than in an urgent need to treat a concussion or anything else.

Lloris is attended to by medical staff and teammates at Goodison Park.
Lloris is attended to by medical staff and teammates at Goodison Park.Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Trusting the judgement of the injured party in such situations is not necessarily wise. But having undoubtedly had momentary issues following the impact from Lukaku's knee, the France international appeared to have recovered sufficiently in that he was not suffering any confusion over where he was.

As was subsequently reported by BBC Sport, the Professional Footballers' Association and FIFPro have since called for players who lose consciousness to immediately be removed. In absence of those guidelines, the overriding decision of Villas-Boas to let Lloris continue was the same one almost any manager would have made.

While the Portuguese would have wanted his player to continue if possible because of his value to the team and to avoid using up their last substitute, he would not have done so at the cost of his player's health.

Backing this assertion was the action taken by Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger in his team's 1-0 loss to Manchester United following a clash of heads involving his goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. Wenger told Sky Sports:

Nobody told me anything about him. If he said there was a problem I would have taken him off. I listen to the doctor. If he says to me he has to come off, he comes off. 

No matter if we have seven men on the field, I do it. You have only one life and you have 60 games per year.

Evidently more severely, Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic was withdrawn and taken to hospital after suffering a head injury in a separate incident. At the time of writing there had been no news over the results of the defender's scan.

Briefly detailing the process Spurs took (and what was similarly followed by Arsenal), Spurs goalie Brad Friedel told Sky Sports' "Weekend Warm-Up" show that "the doctors did their job, the manager asked the right questions. The doctors will err on the side of caution and nobody wants their players to be in harm's way."

With the whole affair being exacerbated again by Lloris missing the Newcastle game, it might suggest Spurs got it wrong on Merseyside, however the fact is that situations can change with new information.

Subsequently Spurs have gone for a cautionary approach, yet it is hard to dispute that Villas-Boas and his staff did what they thought best at the time.

Arsenal's Arsene Wenger did similarly to Villas-Boas following an injury to his own goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny against Man United.
Arsenal's Arsene Wenger did similarly to Villas-Boas following an injury to his own goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny against Man United.Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Following the Newcastle defeat, Diesel told "the medical department have agreed to afford the player a couple more days rest." Villas-Boas commented to Sky Sports that while Lloris had been deemed not ready, he was "absolutely fine" (albeit slightly contradictorily).

Tottenham bore the brunt of the whole saga somewhat unfortunately and unfairly. Had the Szczesny incident taken place prior to it, perhaps Arsenal would have been on the receiving end of more scrutiny than they have been.

Speaking to Sky Sports, a spokesman for Headway did not wish to "get involved" in this one, stating "from the very start the whole situation was to raise awareness about head injuries."

If there are those who feel strongly enough to have called out Spurs for perceived negligence, they must channel their efforts to persuading football's governing bodies that new legislation has to be implemented here.

Obviously, head injuries are a serious subject matter, but without further action to change things the message of how they should be treated will get lost.

Otherwise, the likelihood of a similar situation happening again is not remote. Goalkeepers like Lloris who are not afraid to regularly contest and challenge for the ball with opponents know full well that this is the risk they take.

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