All good things come to an end, in this case 310 consecutive Premier League appearance by that master of consistency, Brad Friedel. Despite media attempts to make the decision of Friedel or Hugo Lloris into a crisis, the American had acknowledged himself in his usual dignified manner that the time would come when Lloris would start.
At 41 years of age, Friedel knew his time in the starting line-up wasn’t infinite, that Lloris was bought to be the future keeper of Tottenham. Not that Friedel would just step aside as his performances this season have shown but that Lloris given the opportunity, would have to perform to the top of his game to keep the verteran out.
This is a good position for Spurs this season. The French number one and captain and veteran model professional vying for the starting slot.
Lloris made his Premier League debut in a 2-0 victory over Aston Villa. Apart from one hasty throw out to Gareth Bale which led to Christian Benteke missing a sitter, it was a good introduction for the Frenchman. Lloris may have busier afternoons but he performed well, getting several saves under his belt, coming for crosses and most crucially fast off his line to collect or clear the ball.
Villas-Boas is stating that no decision has been made on who will be Spurs number one. Publicly this is understandable as the coach appears to prefer to keep team business where it should be – in the team. May be he is ensuring both keepers stay keen. However, is it Lloris’ speed off his line which could cement the Frenchman’s starting position.
If there appears to have been one slight criticism of Friedel this season it has been a tendency to stay on his line. When under pressure from set pieces, it has been the defenders who look to have been left to deal with it; similarly when the opposition have broken, there have been occasions when Friedel has shown hesitation in coming out [granted not every occasion]. However, the impact this can have is for defenders to drop slightly deeper to cover, or when the ball is in the box it may be to zonal mark rather than mark the player.
Lloris’ command in the area and speed off his line may have two benefits. At set pieces, the defenders can mark the players in the knowledge that their keeper will come for the crosses and claim or punch.
Arguably though the main benefit is for the coach’s preference for the high line. Playing the high line may always leave a team open to the counter attack, the ball behind the defence so ideally for this to be effective, the keeper needs to be fast off his line – to act as a sweeper. Against Villa, Lloris showed this on several occasions, racing to clear the ball and memorably gather at the feet of Gabriel Agbonlahor.
No doubt, Spurs have not seen the end of Brad Friedel, however is this the beginning of the end? In Lloris does Villas-Boas have exactly the keeper/sweeper he needs?
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