Forget Vertonghen & Dembele, Lloris Has Been Spurs' Signing Of The Season

He may've taken his time to establish himself, but Lloris has become Spurs' number one and deservedly so. Vertonghen and Dembele may've been good signings, but it's the Frenchman that remains the best of the new arrivals.
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He may've taken his time to establish himself, but Lloris has become Spurs' number one and deservedly so. Vertonghen and Dembele may've been good signings, but it's the Frenchman that remains the best of the new arrivals.

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On the day it was announced Tottenham Hotspur had sacked Harry Redknapp last summer, a number of his media buddies took to Twitter to speak of their outrage. The highlight was the comparison of chairman Daniel Levy to Blackburn Rovers owners the Venky's - 'Worse than the Venky's' they proclaimed, to which every fan of the game enjoyed a good chortle to.

Regardless of the top four finish, a number of Spurs fans were split on the decision to oust Redknapp. There were those that felt he didn't deserve the boot having achieved what was set out before him, while others believed the time was right to be shown the exit following the monumental drop in form and continuous flirtation with the England; a role he was never considered for.

In his place came Andre Villas-Boas, fresh from a break from the game following his sacking as Chelsea manager. After a slow start - a defeat at Newcastle United and two draws against teams Spurs 'should' have been beating at White Hart Lane - and the daggers were out early for the 35-year-old.

The first 12 games were a mixed bunch for the team, with Spurs succumbing to five defeats up until, and including, the 5-2 North London Derby defeat at the Emirates Stadium. Perhaps most notably was the fact that this was only Hugo Lloris' second Premier League outing for the club.

Signed from Olympique Lyonnais on deadline day back in August, a number of quarters of the fanbase had been questioning the decision to sign the France number one and captain. In Brad Friedel, Spurs already possessed a loyal custodian and a goalkeeper solid enough to earn points for the club throughout the season.

However, one facet that had at times angered Spurs fans was his inability to stray from his goal line. The American regularly opted to remain between the posts rather than move forward to collect the ball, when at times it was easier for the latter to be accomplished.

Furthermore, his poor distribution - regularly punting up field to find Gareth Bale or Clint Dempsey - was a secondary annoyance with supporters, who would rather see the team build an attack from the back rather than look for the knockdown when pressing forward.

While it's not necessarily the wrong way to perform his goalkeeping duties - Friedel has been a Premier League 'keeper for close to 16 years now - it was a style that simply failed to match Villas-Boas' system.

A high defensive line with quick centre-backs, able to track back swiftly should they be caught out, and a 'Sweeper-Keeper' was essential to the success of this approach. Lloris, for years now, has been one of the finest of performing this act both efficiently and hastily, as witnessed on numerous occasions since becoming Spurs' number one.

Since the defeat to Arsenal back in November, a game that could well have seen him relegated back to the bench having conceded five, Spurs have lost just one of the 16 games in the Premier League since, conceding just 12 goals in the process; a far cry from the 16 conceded in the 10 games that Friedel was between the sticks.

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Throw in the seven clean sheets during his time with Spurs, one of which was in the 2-0 win over Aston Villa at White Hart Lane back in October, an accomplishment that Friedel failed to achieve in his 10 Premier League games this season, and it's understandable why Lloris has been confirmed as the undisputed number one.

But what ranks him higher than the likes of Jan Vertonghen and Mousa Dembele? The Belgian duo have become vital members of the starting XI since arriving at White Hart Lane with the former replacing Ledley King in defence and the latter Luka Modric in midfield.

Providing a youthful and strong spine to run through the Spurs starting XI, it was never going to take long for both players to endear themselves to the supporters. However, the duo, it has since been realised, have a like-for-like replacement ready and waiting should they succumb to injury or suspension.

Vertonghen has, more often than not, been utilised at left-back in the absence of Benoit Assou-Ekotto, with Steven Caulker ready to step if needs must. Dembele may've been irreplaceable earlier in the season, with Spurs losing three of the four games he was sidelined with a hip problem, but the arrival of Lewis Holtby and return to form of Gylfi Sigurdsson will provide the necessary cover for the former Fulham man should he find himself ruled out of action again between now and May.

However, if Lloris is forced out of action for a substantial period, the quality in backup - Friedel - isn't of similar stature to that of the Frenchman, as witnessed in Spurs' FA Cup defeat to Leeds United.

A prime example was Luke Varney's opener in the 2-1 win for Neil Warnock's side as the Leeds man broke down the left to cut onto his right. Friedel narrowed the angle at the near post, but left the far corner gaping, with the striker able to pick his spot with minimal ease.

Granted the defence ensured the 30-year-old had a clear run through on goal, but by sticking to his line, Friedel ensured that the Yorkshire side could take the initiative. Yet, had Lloris been in place to rush from his line, Varney may not have been in the position to initially place his effort.

It's another facet linked to Villas-Boas' high defensive line, especially when the space between the backline and Friedel in the defeat back in January was easily capitalised upon as a result of the gap between the goalkeeper and the defence.

Furthermore, in the 18 games Lloris has started for Spurs in the Premier League, the 26-year-old has been forced into 32 saves, a far cry from the 24 in 10 for Friedel, with the former, on average, called upon to make a save once every 51 minutes compared to every 37.5 minutes for Friedel, further pointing to the Frenchman's ability to sniff out danger quicker than his teammate.

On top of that, since December 16th, Spurs' 1-0 win over Swansea City at White Hart Lane and the first in their 12 game unbeaten streak, the solidity and concentration on the defence has improved considerably.

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A problematic trait in the initial 16 games of the campaign was the inability of the club to hold onto leads and a failure to not concede in the dying embers of games this season, most notably in the 2-1 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park.

Spurs shipped 20 goals in the second half, nine of which came in the last 10 minutes and saw them drop eight points as a result. However, since the victory over Swansea, they've conceded just two goals in the second half - a Gareth Bale own goal and a Joe Cole strike which, admittedly, Lloris could've done more to prevent, in the respective wins over Arsenal and West Ham United.

The confidence that Lloris exudes throughout the defence is also evident, even more so that Michael Dawson, a player isn't the quickest off the mark and one that had been expected to depart for QPR in the summer, has quickly reestablished himself as Spurs' captain.

Such is the swiftness of the 'keeper from his line, that Dawson can step forward with conviction while safe in the knowledge that Lloris will sweep up behind him should a ball over the top penetrate the defence.

It is this that has seen Spurs ship just 33 Premier League goals this season; the fifth lowest in the league and just three off having the second tightest defence behind Manchester City. The arrival of Lloris was, effectively, the final piece in the defensive puzzle for the Spurs head coach; the France captain very much a 'Villas-Boas' signing, if you will.

While Vertonghen and Dembele have been impressive arrivals at White Hart Lane, don't get me wrong, they're usurped by the signing of the 26-year-old. With the onus now on ball retention and the need to build attacks from the back, Lloris is the goalkeeper to have done this and with it has become a cornerstone in the reinvention of Tottenham Hotspur.