Two factors have emerged for the goalkeeping role since Tim Sherwood has taken over and Hugo Lloris has had to adapt his game as a result.
Our French keeper was the perfect fit for Andre Villas-Boas’ high line and pressing system that wanted to control possession.
With the centre backs pushed up to condense the playing area, he swept up the space behind them if the opposition attacked it. When the ball was in his possession, he started play from deep as he either threw or passed it to his centre or full backs.
With Tim Sherwood at the helm, Hugo Lloris is now being asked to operate behind a deeper sitting centre back pairing and to kick the ball downfield.
Less space for the sweeper keeper
Hugo Lloris is a natural to play behind a high defensive line, with his ability to mop up anything hit over or through his centre backs. He did this with regularity and developed quite a reputation as he flew out to take the ball before an attacker could get there.
In Andre Villas-Boas’ high line system he had space to do this with his centre backs pushed up and given the green light to sweep up everything played in-behind.
If we look at two games from earlier in the season, we can how condensed our formation was from back to front and how high the centre backs were against Hull.
Now Hull sat deep, but the centre backs were also up at the halfway line against Swansea, a team that actually wanted to attack us. The formation was also condensed from back to front here too.
Tim Sherwood has naturally put his own system in place, which has seen the centre backs drop deeper in an attempt to keep everything in front of them.
Although now away from home, compare the average positions of our centre backs in the illustrations above with those from the match report with Hull at the weekend. Also note the distance from back to front.
And also the return at Swansea, where the formation is again elongated from back to front as the centre backs were deeper.
Hugo Lloris’ natural instinct is to come flying from his line to close the attacker and take the ball away on anything played through or over our defence.
With the alteration Tim Sherwood has made, it impacts his instinctive game in two ways.
Firstly, he has less space to cover. This could be seen as good, but actually this is now condensing the playing area on him, forcing him to make decisions of whether to come for a ball rather than having the green light to go get it. This means that he has to make decisions much quicker as he’s not expected to race from his line every time.
This impacts on the second factor, time. Having less time to react with his defenders much deeper cuts down on any ability to hesitate or change his mind and reduces any margin for error further.
Having less space to work in and less time to make decisions has seen errors start to creep in.
The tackle on Ashley Young that he fortunately got away with and avoided a penalty at Old Trafford was one such instance where space and time were condensed on him.
Flying out at Nikica Jelavic when the Croatian received a through ball just outside the area at the weekend was another. Jelavic chipped Lloris, but Michael Dawson was able to clear the ball just before it crossed the goal line.
On both occassions, Hugo Lloris only just got to the edge of his box, whereas usually he’d be outside his area sweeping up.
This isn’t Hugo’s fault, as this is caused by a system that requires him to make assessments of whether to stick or twist, rather than just going.
Hugo Lloris’ kicking game
It’s not just condensing the space on a keeper that likes to rush from his line that Hugo Lloris is dealing with, he’s also being asked to kick long downfield.
Andre Villas-Boas wanted to retain possession and build from the back. This saw Lloris often go short with the ball to his centre backs or full backs, only kicking downfield if the opposition pressed him.
Against Hull and Swansea earlier this season in the Premier League, we can see just how often his distribution was short and found it’s target.
Tim Sherwood now wants his keeper to put the ball downfield to take advantage of Emmanuel Adebayor’s height.
Lloris’ distribution in the return matches with Hull and Swansea now tells a much different story.
Hugo Lloris is comfortable with the ball at his feet and is a very good short distributor, but even for AVB, accurate kicks downfield were not a strong point. Lloris was in the team for his ability to move it around at the back with his hands or his feet to retain possession, not to go long downfield.
Can Hugo Lloris adapt his game to Tim Sherwood’s system? Only time will tell.