For all Tottenham’s transfer activity in recent seasons, it is the acquisition of a certain French stopper that is for me their stand out bit of business. Signed in the summer of 2012 for an initial fee of just £8m from French giants Lyon, Lloris represented genuine world-class pedigree for a side looking to step up from being the great underachievers.
After a slow settling in period to Premier League life, Lloris has finally established himself as one of the best performers in the whole league. Many would place him in the top bracket amongst the likes of Petr Cech and David de Gea, and I would argue that such praise is wholly justified.
Four clean sheets from his opening five games in the league this season really started to highlight how far the defensive unit had come under AVB. A continued belief in a high line with the talented sweeper keeper Lloris in behind to mop up any unnecessary danger. As many know the football wasn’t the best, but for Spurs defensive solidity had been achieved for one of the first times in last decade or so.
Fast forward to 2014 and the Spurs back line is in a state of disarray. Sherwood’s gung-ho attitude has exacerbated the problems left by the ruin of the AVB tenure. Whether it is coincidental or not, Lloris just hasn’t looked like the same keeper ever since his clash with Romelu Lukaku at Goodison Park in November; less the assured sweeper, now a calamitous kamikaze style stopper that leaves fans wincing at the sight of him charging out.
It is easy to sensationalise and clearly Lloris is far from entering the Gomes or Robinson categories for Spurs yet, but his drop in form has been both notable and worrying at the same time. At the start of the season Lloris’ decision making was almost faultless, and when he did make a move he was as composed as he was decisive. Watching the recent win over United and you noticed a sense of nervousness amongst the whole defence, unconvincing from crosses and looking incredibly open when balls were played in behind them.
Should Lloris be taking the brunt of the blame here?
I don’t think the defenders and goalkeeper should be treated as stand alone, clearly one impacts upon the other and at Spurs this is no different. Possibly the result of transition from one manager to another, the organisation of the back line has been close to non-existent. Ravaged by injury, the current Chiriches/ Dawson partnership has seen Spurs consistently beaten by balls in behind with poor communication and an inability to hold a line the underlying problems. To make matters worse, rather than having the assurance and pace of a Vertonghen at the back you now have two rather haphazard centre halves that seem unable to react to any piercing of the back line. In the past Vertonghen and at times Walker have worked in tandem with Lloris to track back and cover any break in the line, the feeling during both the Arsenal and united games was that Lloris is very much on his own out there and paying the price for it.
Lloris has always been on the rash side, its what makes him one of the best sweeper keepers in the world and something that should be nurtured rather than changed. Yes he will naturally come under fire for blunders and periods where he looks reckless at the back, but if Spurs want to rectify things they need to look at their centre halves above all else.
Sherwood has made no secret of the current injury crisis, and I don’t think it has helped Spurs at all given the fact they have played what has been at times a 3rd or 4th choice backline during the winter. For me the return of Vertonghen is crucial, an assured defender that is comfortable playing the offside trap but also capable of working in tandem with Lloris in goal.
A full week of training under Sherwood may help to patch things up in the mean time, but until the return of Vertonghen many fear that the chaos at the back will only continue.