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Is Hugo Lloris underrated? The Tottenham captain's stats stack up
Liverpool face Tottenham at Anfield on Super Sunday from 4.15pm
Last Updated: 31/03/19 7:41am
Hugo Lloris has made some high-profile errors but his numbers stack up against the best, writes Adam Bate.
When Hugo Lloris made his humiliating mistake in the World Cup final last summer, gifting a goal to Croatia's Mario Mandzukic midway through the second half after being dispossessed with the ball at his feet, it wasn't enough to spoil his evening. After all, he was France's captain and as such he was the man who got to lift the trophy, the biggest prize in football.
But Tottenham supporters certainly noted it. Lloris, for all his qualities as a goalkeeper, has earned something of a reputation for saving his worst errors for the biggest of stages.
Last season, he ensured Spurs kicked off their home campaign with defeat to rivals Chelsea when he allowed a Marcos Alonso shot to squirm under his body. In the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge, Alvaro Morata headed home after Lloris came for a cross and missed it.
This season didn't start much better. Making his return from a thigh injury in the high-profile Champions League game against Barcelona, he needlessly rushed from his line in the second minute, presenting Philippe Coutinho with the opportunity to fire into an empty net. Tottenham went on to lose the game 4-2 having never managed to get back on level terms.
These are the sort of mistakes in big matches that linger in the memory and add to the perception that Lloris is a liability when it matters most. Throw in the ambitious attempts to pass out from the back that make supporters so anxious and it all contributes to the idea that the Frenchman is not quite at the level required to take Tottenham to where they want to be.
But Lloris' recent form has encouraged a rethink after a series of game-defining moments have gone his way. Firstly, there was his penalty save from Jamie Vardy against Leicester just when the momentum of the match was threatening to take it away from Tottenham.
To the delight of the fans, he repeated the feat in stoppage time of the derby game against Arsenal earlier this month to deny Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the winner from the spot.
As for Lloris' role in the away win over Borussia Dortmund that took Tottenham through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, it will perhaps never be clear just how crucial that was. The record books will show a 4-0 aggregate win but anyone who watched the game will recall the series of stunning stops to keep the German side out in the first half.
Mauricio Pochettino was full of praise for Lloris after that performance, just as he had been following the early victory over Leicester. "We can have no doubts about someone who is one of the best goalkeepers in the world," said the Tottenham manager after that one.
It brought to mind another comment from one of Lloris' team-mates back in 2016. "For me, he is the best 'keeper in the league," said Eric Dier at the time. "He is very underrated. I don't know why that is, maybe it is because he is a very low-key guy. He is fantastic though."
Just as Lloris' errors in big matches can skew perceptions of his overall performance levels in a negative way, recency bias can work in his favour after a series of key stops. So what do the statistics tell us about how good he is? Could it be that Lloris is actually underrated?
Expected goals on target calculates the likelihood of a goal going in based on the location from which the shot was taken, the type of shot, and where on the target it was struck. This makes it a useful tool with which to measure how many goals that a goalkeeper might have been expected to concede from the shots that they have had to face.
Those numbers look good for Lloris this season. He has faced 104 shots on target in the Premier League and conceded 27 of them. But based on the analysis of those 104 shots, the statistics suggest that he would have been expected to concede at least 33 of them. In other words, his superior goalkeeping skills have saved Spurs six goals so far this season.
That compares favourably with the rest of his top-six rivals. Liverpool's Alisson and Manchester City's Ederson have conceded fewer goals but they haven't saved their team as many goals as Lloris based on the analysis of the quality of the shots they have faced. Manchester United's David de Gea and others boast far less impressive numbers.
Despite his slip-up in the Champions League against Barcelona, according to Opta, Lloris has not made an error directly leading to a goal in the Premier League so far this season. Alisson has made three and so has Arsenal's Bernd Leno. De Gea has made a couple too.
Lloris might have been a little fortunate - he has made four errors leading to shots that were not converted - but his reputation for riskiness is a product of his style of play. Indeed, it is his willingness to come off his line as he did against Barca that allows Spurs to play with the high defensive line that is so pivotal to Pochettino's approach to the game.
Lloris' proactive attitude is best highlighted by the number of goalkeeper sweepings that he has attempted this season. According to Opta, this is defined as any time that a goalkeeper anticipates danger and rushes off their line to try to either cut out an attacking pass in a race with the opposition player or to close down an opposition player.
The Spurs skipper has attempted this 18 times in the Premier League this season, being successful 17 times. That's more than any other goalkeeper at a top-six team. The fact that the more passive De Gea has attempted it only once all season highlights the fact that this is a stylistic choice. Some goalkeepers just suit different teams. Lloris is right for Tottenham.
Perhaps the next mistake will not be too far away and the critics will be out in force again. But over an extended period of time, these numbers suggest that Lloris is getting the balance right. He is helping his team and is appreciated by his coach and his team-mates. Beyond the Tottenham dressing room, it could well be that Lloris is underrated.
Find out how Hugo Lloris fares for Tottenham when they travel to Anfield to face Liverpool this Sunday on Sky Sports Premier League from 4.15pm
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