Lloris’ story since the restart: Tottenham’s skipper leading defensive improvements under Mourinho


Tottenham’s French skipper Hugo Lloris has gone under the radar with his performances since the restart.

This is the biggest compliment that you can attribute to Lloris, a player that at times made the headlines for the wrong reasons.

You only have to rewind to earlier in the season against Southampton, the ‘keeper delaying passing the ball out from the back and being caught by Danny Ings to score the easiest of goals.

It’s strange for a World Cup winning captain to split opinion. You only have to mention his name in the local Tottenham pub to hear the mixed reviews that the 33-year-old generates.

Against Manchester United at the restart of the Premier League season, Lloris was exemplary under pressure from the Red Devils. A diving stop from Anthony Martial the pick of the bunch.

The only failure of Lloris was the failure to save a Bruno Fernandes penalty, a feature not many goalkeepers have managed. Against Tottenham’s opponents on Sunday, Leicester, Lloris saved a penalty from Jamie Vardy at Wembley last season.

That save was part of a run between February and April 2019 which saw Lloris save Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s spot-kick late on in the North London derby, Vardy’s penalty and also Sergio Aguero’s effort from 12 yards in the Champions League quarter-final. A run any ‘keeper in world football would be proud of.

His leadership skills have come into question at times. He doesn’t come across as the most powerful, demanding character that many expect from their captain.

Lloris’ altercation with Heung-Min Son at half time against Everton displayed some of these traits. After the South Korean failed to track his runner, Richarlison, who was given the space to fire just past the post.

The Frenchman was furious and tried to confront Son about the mistake, the two having to be separated as they went down the tunnel.

Despite these being unprofessional scenes for Tottenham fans to view, the notion that Lloris doesn’t care about the club is clearly blurred.

Jose Mourinho described the altercation as ‘beautiful’ and something he expects from his team:

“That’s the consequence of our meetings. If you want to blame someone for that, it’s me.

“It is something needed for the team to grow up. To grow up you need big personalities. When you have that reaction I have no doubts.” – Mourinho on Son and Lloris’ incident

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The captain’s performance against North London rivals Arsenal last week was also impressive. Despite the blunders over the years, Lloris often performs well in Tottenham’s biggest game of the season against their noisy neighbours.

His save from Aubameyang’s curling effort proved vital as Spurs won the game through Toby Alderweireld’s header on 82 minutes.

He’s had to pick the ball out his net a fair few times since the lockdown, though no blame can be attached to Lloris for the recent Matt Ritchie or Alexandre Lacazette strikes that have flown past him.

Much criticism fell Spurs’ way after their draw at Bournemouth, and rightly so, but Lloris save late on against Harry Wilson ensured his team left the South Coast with a point.

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Tottenham’s defence is starting to become a more solid unit. Eric Dier was looking a more assured player at centre back, before an FA ban put an end to his season.

The introduction of Alderweireld brings a calm presence at the back, while his passing range remains an important weapon, even if his favourite target of Dele Alli remains sidelined.

Clean sheets have been hard to come by for Tottenham this season that’s for sure. Spurs ranked 16th with just seven collected this season, a worse record than relegation threatened Watford (nine).

Three since lockdown began is an improvement, but they face a Jamie Vardy who is beginning to capture his form of old. Vardy has been involved in eight goals in his nine appearances (five goals, three assists) against Spurs and will hope to add to his tally on Sunday afternoon.

There will be no James Maddison or the dangerous full back pairing of Ben Chilwell or Ricardo Pereira, Maddison and Pereira netting in the Foxes’ victory in the reverse fixture between these sides back in September.

It is a game Chelsea will be keeping a close eye on too. With Leicester seeking a top four place, the Blues will be hoping that their London rivals defensive effort continues and helps them in the tussle for Champions League qualification.

Mourinho has been telling his team that they are two wins away from winning the Europa League, the Portuguese manager winning the tournament with Manchester United.

A win against Leicester would be a big step towards European football for Spurs and they’ll need to be as sharp as ever at the back if they are to achieve it.

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