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Don’t worry about Hugo Lloris (for now, anyway)

Bold goalkeeping choices have led to goals conceded, but it might be too soon to start looking for a replacement.

PSV v Tottenham Hotspur - UEFA Champions League Group B

In the 79th minute of Tottenham Hotspur’s Champions League encounter with PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday, Toby Alderweireld, Davinson Sanchez, and Hirving Lozano were running for the ball. Hugo Lloris decided to meet them halfway so the ball would not get any closer to his goal. Instead of the ball, though, he made contact with Lozano, and was promptly sent off. The match, with 11 minutes to go, went from 2-1 to the visitors to 2-2 by the end, leaving Tottenham with a disappointing draw.

Obviously and appropriately, Lloris’s 79th minute red card has essentially been described as the match’s turning point. Ignoring the question of whether or not Spurs might’ve won that match if Lloris finished it out, the momentum was clearly in PSV’s favor, and it might be hard to argue that the rest of the defense might not messed up if he was there. The red card has become an indictment on Lloris’s goalkeeping, which is not necessarily bad news for him — after all, it came in a classic Lloris moment. Yet, the articles that have been written about the goalkeeper in the last day and change have not been particularly kind.

The prevailing story has been that Lloris has become a “liability” as he deals with a post-World Cup “hangover” after winning the tournament with France. Lloris’s goalkeeping errors have been documented back to June 2017 by the likes of the i, but the sample size for the general argument is only the 2018-19 season, and therefore rather small; Lloris has only played nine games for club and country since the beginning of August, missing several weeks with a thigh injury. In addition to the red card at PSV, a frequently cited incident is Philippe Coutinho’s goal against Tottenham in the Champions League. Lloris made an error by dashing towards Jordi Alba instead of being prepared for Alba’s eventual pass to Coutinho. With those two incidents in mind, the argument is that Lloris’s instincts and decision making are off, and that it might be habit now.

Yet, Lloris does not seem to be exhibiting abnormal behavior at the moment. Arguments can be made that he could have handled the aforementioned incidents against Barcelona and PSV better, and maybe that he has not hit a great run of form yet this season, but it still just seems like par for the course with the Frenchman. These are the consequences of having the game’s currently most renowned sweeper-keeper on staff; Lloris comes off his line successfully frequently, but also leaves the audience with some memorable gaffes, and even a few poor matches. Hardly a ringing endorsement for his talents, but it has always been the case as long as Lloris has been at Tottenham.

David Preece, a goalkeeping analyst, wrote for the i that Lloris is still putting himself in good positions, but the type of errors he has made recently is different and argued that Alderweireld and Sanchez were in good position to handle Lozano. “Treading the tightrope between excellent interception and conceding a goal or making a foul, the volume with which Lloris vacates his goal means he is always more likely to make mistakes than most,” Preece wrote. “The real worry now is not that mistakes are being made with increasing frequency but that the nature of them cannot be defended.”

It clearly has been an inconsistent two weeks for Lloris, who enjoyed a standout display against West Ham before the PSV matches. It might also be true that Lloris’s decision making might be getting worse, but a two-week span is not enough proof to back up the argument. A few writers have turned the question to Mauricio Pochettino, who obviously would have to begin fixing that problem, but is ultimately stuck with Lloris for better or worse at the moment. Michel Vorm and Paulo Gazzaniga at their bests probably could not take Lloris’s place, though they’ve both had successful outings in their time at the club.

Ultimately, it is too soon to call for Lloris’s replacement just yet. Perhaps Pochettino’s best current bet is to focus on Lloris’s recent mistakes and help correct them for the future, and he may still have to replace Lloris sooner rather than later. Only time will tell, though, meaning the goalkeeper deserves a little bit more of our patience.