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Hugo Lloris's errors for Tottenham and why he is still a top goalkeeper
Last Updated: 30/04/18 6:41pm
Hugo Lloris's tendency to make mistakes is a worry for Tottenham but it does not necessarily mean he is not a good goalkeeper, writes Adam Bate.
Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino's decision to select back-up goalkeeper Michel Vorm ahead of Hugo Lloris for the club's FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester United invited criticism, particularly when the Dutchman was partially culpable for the opening goal. But Lloris's errors have also seen him under scrutiny this season.
The Spurs captain was questioned at the start of April when he misjudged a cross to allow Alvaro Morata to head home the opening goal for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Lloris was then a little unfortunate in the very next game against Stoke when an attempted clearance ricocheted off opposition striker Mame Biram Diouf to gift him an equaliser.
Regarded by his admirers as rare mistakes, Lloris nevertheless had also made what Opta defines as errors leading to goals in the reverse fixtures against both Chelsea and Stoke. Indeed, the statistics show that Lloris has made more errors leading to goals over the past three seasons than any other player in the Premier League.
Lloris has made 10 such mistakes since the summer of 2015 with five of them coming in the current campaign. Half of those 10 errors have come in matches against Chelsea, Manchester City and north London rivals Arsenal, creating a feeling that Lloris is even more likely to make a mistake when the stakes are at their highest.
What is even more worrying for the Frenchman is that he cannot point to his errors being harshly punished. Lloris has also made a total of 20 errors leading to shots in this three-year period - that is seven more than any other Premier League player. Despite his reputation, there is significant evidence to suggest he is the most error-prone player in the country.
Even so, his reputation remains. In October, Lloris was instrumental in Tottenham earning a 1-1 draw against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu. "Hugo was fantastic," said Pochettino afterwards. "He deserves big praise from everyone. He showed his real level. You had the opportunity to see why Hugo is one of the best goalkeepers in the world."
So how can Lloris's status as a top-class goalkeeper be married up with this tendency to make more mistakes than others? There are the saves such as the one from Karim Benzema that evening, of course. But perhaps understanding the reasons why Lloris is regarded so highly can also help to explain why he is more likely to make mistakes than others.
The ability to sweep up behind the defence is one of his key attributes. Lloris is not only required to read the situation to intercept those balls that go in behind the back line but also have the pace to come out and deal with them. It is an important skill. Ederson's excellence in dealing with such situations has been vital to Manchester City's success, for example.
According to Opta, Ederson has come off his line to sweep up behind his defence on 40 occasions this season, the most by any Premier League goalkeeper. But the man second on the list is Lloris with 32. In fact, he has done so 106 times over the past three seasons - more than anyone else - with an above average success rate of 96.2 per cent.
Trying to stop opponents from getting clear-cut opportunities is not without its risks. An unsuccessful sweeper keeper can be made to look very foolish - as was the case with Lloris against Stoke. Staying on the line is less likely to attract criticism because the more eye-catching errors can be avoided. But that does not make it the right thing to do.
It is a similar story when it comes to distribution too. Lloris is expected to build from the back at Tottenham. Again, only Ederson has played more passes inside his own half this season. Both men are good at it. They are among the four regular goalkeepers with a passing accuracy in excess of 90 per cent when attempting to play this type of pass.
However, the fact that Lloris plays such passes so often - he has attempted over 700 more of these passes than anyone else over the past three seasons - also means he misplaces more of them than any other goalkeeper too. His total of 244 failed passes inside his own half is yet another Premier League high for Lloris.
Pochettino, like Pep Guardiola, regards this as a price worth paying in order to play the style of football that he demands. Perhaps that is the crux of it with Lloris. The number of errors is alarming and some cannot be excused. But others are a natural consequence of his style. Paradoxically, it could be that Lloris is both prone to error and a top-class goalkeeper.
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