Hugo Lloris is hurt, done in by his own man when Kyle Walker broke him two minutes into today’s game versus Leicester. And with that, Tottenham Hotspur went from a three-man team to a two-man team.
Harry Kane has 27 goals this season, as everyone knows. He’s been the Premier League’s darling, and for good reason. He’s earned himself an England call-up and has been tipped for a move to Real Madrid, so you know he’s been one of Spurs best players.
If Kane isn’t winning the match for Tottenham, Christian Eriksen is. The Danish attacking midfielder leads the Premier League in game-winning goals and is the orchestrator of Spurs’ attack. If you’re talking about Tottenham’s challenge for a top four spot or their run to the League Cup final, you’re talking about Kane and Eriksen.
But while the two have been absolutely brilliant, so has Hugo Lloris. And he’s meant as much to Tottenham as Kane or Eriksen.
First year head coach Mauricio Pochettino has brought a lot of change to Tottenham, but one thing he hasn’t been able to do is fix an abomination of a defense. In fact, he’s made it worse by putting huge responsibility on a broken midfield and asking the fullbacks to fly forward, exposing the central defense. And all the while, the team’s inability to mark on set pieces, slow centerbacks and young players who lose focus have made its many problems that much worse.
So how have Spurs survived? Lloris. And Lloris. And more Lloris.
The goalkeeper has been Tottenham’s best defender, as well as their second, third and fourth best defender. It’s astounding just how good he has been, matching any other backstop in the Premier League. He claims crosses and distributes the ball well, while making heroic save after heroic save. He’s done it all over his box too, stoning would-be goalscorers on his line, by the penalty spot, on the edge of and even outside the box. There isn’t a place from 30 yards in where he hasn’t been Spurs’ savior.
Much of that can be attributed to Pochettino, who has done as much to improve the Frenchman as he has to handicap the defense. Lloris has long been a sweeper keeper, borderline insane and looking for excuses to play 40 yards off his line. He cleared the ball, dribbled, saved and even collided with opponents (leading to a scary head injury on one occasion). It was thrilling and he was good, especially with Spurs playing such a high line, but Pochettino curbed it. He asked the Frenchman to play on his line and in his box more. Lloris was still aggressive on crosses, but he no longer approached midfield. His supreme athleticism was restricted to shot stopping, making him both predictable and incredible.
Lloris has never been better than this season. While Kane and Eriksen have been winning matches up front, Lloris has been doing it in goal. Spurs have no business being in the Champions League race, or even making a cup final. A quick look at their statistics, their midfield or their defense says as much. The only way to overcome such flaws is to be truly phenomenal in front of both goals, which Kane, Eriksen and Lloris have been.
But now Lloris is hurt. After colliding with Walker near the edge of his six-yard box, he led the field on a stretcher. The club have not yet updated his status, but it did not look good.
They better hope he’s OK, because Lloris is having the best year of his career. Spurs have barely survived as a three-man team. They can’t afford to rely on two.