Why Tottenham need an instant fix, not a work in progress
As Tottenham Hotspur’s protracted deal for Lyon goalkeeper Hugo Lloris finally begins to stir the imaginations of supporters during the transfer window’s final days, the Frenchman isn’t the only ‘keeper being linked with a switch to White Hart Lane.
Amongst the depth of the now fervent transfer speculation that’s now swirling around Andre Villas-Boas’ side, it is the addition of Jack Butland in the gossip columns that really stands out amongst the crowd. But as talented as the Birmingham City stopper may be, Tottenham need the finished article, not a work in progress. Lyon’s chairman Jean Michel-Aulas is a negotiator in the mould of Spurs’ own Daniel Levy. But Hugo Lloris is a player worth paying a ransom for.
Whilst many perhaps knew it was an inevitability, even by Spurs standards, their last minute supermarket sweep of the transfer market is cutting it fine this term. Luka Modric’s long awaited move to Real Madrid has finally gone through and it looks to have catalyzed their summer transfer plans. It would seem that alongside a replacement for the mercurial Croatian, a new man between the sticks is high up on Villas-Boas’ shopping list for Daniel Levy.
Changing your number one always comes fraught with an element of danger, but whilst Brad Friedel remains one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the Premier League at 41, there is a feeling that Spurs are only avoiding the inevitable by failing to replace the American this summer.
Friedel, perhaps understandable at his age, doesn’t necessarily divulge in the spectacular. He is of course, still a decent shot-stopper, but you’re unlikely to see him flinging himself Joe Hart style across the frame of a goal to keep out a stinging free-kick. But a slight lack of agility has seen him take some unfair critique of a minority of supporters towards the end of last season. As the wheels spectacularly came off Harry Redknapp’s side last term, no one was safe from the post-mortem and some felt that perhaps Friedel was too old to be pushing the team on at the top end of the table.
But although his age comes with something of a warning, it is rendered academic if he performs as he did last term. If you overanalyzed every performance from last term you’d find more ammunition on the Ohio born goalie, but his cock-up during the 1-1 draw away to Swansea City last season was perhaps the one high profile occasion that Friedel could be seriously faulted for. The likes of Petr Cech, Pepe Reina and to a more understandable extend, David de Gea, are perceptibly better goalkeepers, but they arguably cost their respective teams as many points as they saved and arguably more than what little Friedel cost Spurs. In the grand old scheme of things in the Premier League, Friedel’s really not that not bad at all.
In the era where the new, younger, more technically adept goalies are hot property, Spurs went old-school in Brad Friedel and it paid them dividends. The argument still rings that forgotten man Heurelho Gomes is a better shot-stopper. It is hard to contrast or quantify the conflicting styles of goalkeepers and how many points they’d have saved/cost the team in the same situation. But the fact Friedel maintained such a low profile for his club last season, is perhaps the best answer you can look for.
Gomes has a gift as a superbly talented shot-stopper. But the truth is you have to maintain a wider skillset than digging your team out from the impossible. Unfortunately for the Brazilian, he’s never really managed to flush out the howlers from his game. Every ‘keeper makes mistakes but his come simply too often to be permitted as par for the course. A great talent and a great bloke – but perhaps not quite the greatest fit for Tottenham Hotspur.
Although whilst the merits can be argued for both Friedel and Gomes all day, Spurs need a goalkeeper with any question marks hanging over their head, of any capacity. Ultimately, Friedel is 41. And whilst any goalkeeper can pick up an injury at any given moment, the risk with the American is surely greater as every season passes. His appearance record suggests that statement can be shot straight down to the ground. But nothing lasts forever. He has had an incredible career. But why should Spurs have to settle for either the steady or the spectacular when they could have both?
Hugo Lloris is the man that appears to cover all bases. The Lyon number one is a highly regarded talent and is certainly within the top tier of European goalkeepers. A three-time goalkeeper of the year recipient in Ligue One, he has the sort of reflexes on par with Heurelho Gomes but with the sensibility and command of his box akin to Brad Friedel. He has the sort of ability with his feet that Villas-Boas will crave in his hunt to find a new ‘Sweeper-Keeper’ and the French national captain has ability in spades.
We’ve seen countless times the dangers of immersing a foreign goalkeeper into the Premier League but Lloris is as good a bet as any to adapt. He won’t come cheap but at 25, he’s already been around the block. Many will remember the part he played in Lyon’s run to the Champions League semis in 2010 and he can’t be accused of inexperience. He has bundles of ability, years ahead of him but also enough experience to suggest he can handle the trappings of a new league.
A Lloris acquisition could be a superb one for Tottenham Hotspur, but it is the mention of one Jack Butland that still has some a little more tangibly excited. Perhaps his age (Butland doesn’t turn 20 till next March) and the fact he represents England’s latest new hope, adds a little more razzmatazz to a possible arrival in N17.
It has even been mooted in some circles that both Lloris could arrive and Butland could still come to Spurs in a deal that sees him farmed back to Birmingham for at least a term. But even if this was to happen, realism needs to be put at the forefront of supporters’ minds. Butland has bags of potential but he is a huge work in progress – his performance for Birmingham against Sheffield Wednesday the other week suggests as much. One, superb term on loan at Cheltenham Town doesn’t transcend into starting every week for a club chasing Champions League football. He needs development and Spurs can’t afford that at the moment. Should a keeper of Lloris’ stature arrive, Butland would represent an expensive option simply to develop a long-term competitor. They need the finished article and Lloris represents the perfect capture.
The Villas-Boas era is finally about to start receiving the backing that it deserves. Whilst Spurs are revamping their squad, there’s no point in leaving any stones unturned. Brad Friedel could do another steady and efficient job in goal for Tottenham next season. But if Villas-Boas feels Lloris can save his side six or seven points a season, then that is all Daniel Levy should need to hear.
Is Hugo Lloris the right fit for Spurs? Should the Frenchman arrive, is there any point in the Lilywhites chasing Jack Butland? Tell me how what you’re hoping for in the final week of the transfer window on Twitter: follow @samuel_antrobus on Twitter and bat me your views.