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Unpopular Opinion: Michel Vorm starting over Hugo Lloris in the semifinal cost Spurs the FA Cup

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Let’s take a look back at one of the season’s biggest disappointments.

Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur - The Emirates FA Cup Semi Final

Inspired by this tweet from New York Times reporter (and Tottenham fan) Astead Wesley, we’re offering some of our hottest takes to fill the gaping hole between the end of the Premier League season and the World Cup. If you have any controversial opinions you’d like to share, post them on the site as a FanPost and we’ll feature some of the spiciest takes.

The day of the FA Cup final is supposed to be the biggest day of the English football calendar. It’s the oldest cup competition in the world, and the game is usually a tense, hard-fought battle between two of the country’s best teams.

This year wasn’t like that at all. The game itself was quite tedious. Chelsea weren’t convincing in victory, and Eden Hazard’s penalty was the only tangible difference between the Blues and an out-of-sorts Manchester United.

Tottenham Hotspur, who lost to United in the semifinals, have been heavily derided for not winning trophies. Seeing Chelsea lift the FA Cup left me with lingering feelings about what could (or even should) have been.

Spurs weren’t perfect down the stretch of the season, but a decent performance by their standards would’ve been enough to beat Antonio Conte’s side...if they had advanced to the final. Thus, my biggest regret from this season stems from that semifinal defeat.

It was just over a month ago. Mauricio Pochettino’s squad came out hot, with Dele Alli opening the scoring in the 11th minute. They then proceeded to throw that lead away as United struck back with goals from Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera.

Spurs’ second half performance was pitiful. No player in lilywhite covered themselves in glory, but one poor performance stood out above the rest.

Michel Vorm has been Hugo Lloris’ back-up at Tottenham since the Dutch keeper arrived at the club from Swansea City in 2014. He has never unseated Lloris as the first-choice, but he has featured often in domestic cup competitions. He started every game in this year’s FA Cup run, most notably the semifinal.

He kept a clean sheet against his old club in the quarterfinals, but only had to make 2 saves in the process. It took Spurs two tries to get past Rochdale in the round of 16, but the team was dominant enough against League One opposition that Vorm only made 1 save in each of those games.

I respect Mauricio Pochettino’s decision to reward a player who has been a loyal backup for years, but Vorm’s play leading up to the semifinal certainly hadn’t earned him a start. He had barely even been tested.

Meanwhile, Hugo Lloris had struggled a bit in the run-up to the semifinal, most notably against Manchester City and Stoke City. He made mistakes, but they were uncharacteristic mistakes for such a quality keeper, and no one on the planet would ever think of arguing that Lloris is inferior to Vorm.

Vorm is 34-years-old, and he showed it in the loss to United.

It goes without saying that this first United goal is primarily the fault of Mousa Dembele. He gave the ball away cheaply to Paul Pogba, who was then able to whip in the cross for Sanchez.

Still, Vorm’s positioning and footwork leaves a lot to be desired. He is way too close to the post on his left as Sanchez rises for the header. Then he stands completely still as the ball bounces into the goal no more than two feet away. In the Newcastle game only a few weeks later we saw Lloris react incredibly quickly to leap across and deny Jamaal Lascelles a goal on a similar header. Could he have done the same there? Hypotheticals are always tricky, but he would’ve stood a better chance at keeping it out than a rusty Vorm did.

The second United goal is the more egregious error.

Again, it’s poor defending from Spurs, but Vorm should’ve done so much better. Herrera’s shot goes right through him, and then the game is pretty much over at that point.

Criticism of Lloris often focuses on his distribution, but never on his reflexes. He’s younger and more spry than Vorm, but he’s also just a much better goalie. If he’s playing, he saves that shot.

It’s true that Vorm probably saw it late, but great keepers with great reflexes can see a shot late and still pull off the save. It’s just too bad for Tottenham that their great keeper was on the bench.

Hindsight is 20/20, but how can you leave your captain, who is arguably the club’s best goalkeeper of all time, on the bench for one of the biggest games of the year?

Hugo should have started, Spurs should have advanced, and then they should have ended their 10-year trophy drought by lifting the FA Cup.