Hugo Lloris made some high profile mistakes but his numbers clash with the best, writes Adam Bate.
When Hugo Lloris made his humiliating mistake in the World Cup final last summer, giving a goal to Croatian Mario Mandzukic halfway through the second half after being dispossessed of the ball at his feet, it wasn't enough to ruin his evening . After all, he was the captain of France and as such he was the man who got the trophy, the biggest prize in the world of football.
But Tottenham supporters certainly noticed it. Lloris, for all his qualities as a goalkeeper, has earned a reputation for saving his worst mistakes for the biggest stadium.
Last season, he ensured that the Spurs started their home campaign with defeat to Chelsea rivals when he allowed Marcos Alonso to shoot to squirm under his body. In reverse at Stamford Bridge, Alvaro Morata returned home after Lloris came for a cross and missed him.
This season has not started much better. Making his return from a thigh injury in the high-profile Champions League match against Barcelona, he unsuccessfully abandoned his line at the second minute, presenting Philippe Coutinho with the opportunity to shoot in an empty net. Tottenham continued to lose the game by 4-2 having never managed to return to the levels.
These are the types of errors in important games that linger in the memory and add to the perception that Lloris is a responsibility when it matters most. Throw in the ambitious attempts to pass out from the back that make supporters so anxious and everything contributes to the idea that the Frenchman is not entirely at the level required to take Tottenham where he wants to be.
But the recent form of Lloris has encouraged a rethinking after a series of moments of definition of the game have done in his own way. First, it was his penalty saved by Jamie Vardy against Leicester, just when the moment of the game was threatening to take him away from Tottenham.
To the delight of the fans, he repeated the feat in the recovery of the derby against the Arsenal at the beginning of this month to deny Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the winner from the penalty spot.
Regarding the role of Lloris in the away win over Borussia Dortmund which led Tottenham to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, perhaps it will never be clear how crucial it was. The record of the records will show a 4-0 aggregate victory, but anyone who has watched the game will remember the series of breathtaking stops to keep the German team out in the first half.
Mauricio Pochettino was full of praise for Lloris after that performance, just as he had followed his first victory over Leicester. "We can have no doubts about someone who is one of the best goalkeepers in the world," said Tottenham manager after that.
Another comment came from one of Lloris' teammates in 2016. "For me he is the best goalkeeper in the league," said Eric Dier at the time. "He is very underrated, I don't know why this is so, maybe it's because he is a very low boy, he is still fantastic."
Just as Lloris' mistakes in important games can distort the perception of his performance levels in a negative way, the recency bias can work in his favor after a series of key interruptions. So what do the statistics tell us about how good he is? Could it be that Lloris is actually underestimated?
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The targets expected on the target calculate the probability of an incoming goal based on the position from which the shot was taken, the type of shot and the point where the target was hit. This makes it a useful tool with which to measure how many goals were expected that a goalkeeper could concede to the shots he had to face.
Those numbers look good to Lloris this season. He faced 104 shots on goal in the Premier League and suffered 27 shots. But based on the analysis of those 104 shots, the statistics suggest he should have admitted at least 33 of them. In other words, his superior goalkeeper skills allowed Spurs to score six goals this season.
This is comparable to the rest of his six best rivals. The Alisson of Liverpool and the Ederson of Manchester City have suffered fewer nets, but they have not saved their team as many as Lloris's goals based on the analysis of the quality of the shots they have faced. David de Gea of Manchester United and others boast far less impressive numbers.
Despite the crash in the Champions League against Barcelona, according to Opta, Lloris has not made a mistake bringing directly to a Premier League goal so far this season. Alisson has made three and so has Bernd Leno of the Arsenal. De Gea also made a couple of them.
Liverpool vs Tottenham
31 March 2019, 16:15
Lloris could have been a bit lucky – he made four mistakes that led to unconverted hits – but his reputation for risk is a product of his style of play. In fact, it is his willingness to get out of his line as he did against Barca, which allows the Spurs to play with the high defensive line that is so fundamental to Pochettino's approach to the game.
Lloris's proactive attitude is best evidenced by the number of goalkeeper sweeps he has attempted this season. According to Opta, this is defined as every time a goalkeeper anticipates danger and rushes out of the line to try to cut off an attack pass in a race with the opposing player or to close an opposing player.
The Spurs skipper has tried this time 18 times in the Premier League, succeeding 17 times. This is more than any other goalkeeper in one of the top six teams. The fact that De Gea is more passive has tried it only once for the whole season emphasizes the fact that this is a stylistic choice. Some goalkeepers only adapt to different teams. Lloris is right for Tottenham.
Perhaps the next mistake will not be too far away and the critics will come back into force again. But for a long time, these numbers suggest that Lloris is getting the balance right. He is helping his team and is appreciated by his coach and his teammates. Beyond the Tottenham locker room, it could be that Lloris is underestimated.
Find out how Hugo Lloris' Tottenham fares go to Anfield to face Liverpool this Sunday on Sky Sports Premier League from 16:15
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