The distribution of Hugo Lloris has been key to building our attacks from the back this season.
Hugo Lloris is one of the finest shot stoppers and commanders of a penalty area around. However, when it comes to distributing the ball, Spurs fans are split on just how good and reliable he is.
Pochettino’s goalkeeper distribution
Mauricio Pochettino not only requires the man between the sticks to be a shot stopper with lightening quick reactions, but also an excellent distributor.
Moving the ball to the right targets from the back is key to maintaining possession and getting play moving vertically, one of the objectives of the manager’s system. Therefore, Mauricio Pochettino requires a keeper who is comfortable with the ball in his gloves as well as at his feet.
There are four zones that Pochettino requires his goalkeeper to reliably hit:
1. The centre backs split very wide.
2. The defensive midfielder who drops inbetween the two centre backs.
3. The full backs who are pushed up extremely high.
4. The centre forward either through the air or with a lower driven ball to feet when he comes short.
We can see a good cross section of that distribution profile from one of Hugo Lloris’ recent matches.
We can see how he reliably hits three out of four of them. The two centre backs splitting wide, the defensive midfielder dropping in and the two full backs that push on towards the halfway line. The one area, often the toughest to hit, are the longer ball and clearances downfield towards the striker. These passes are often played under pressure, as there is nothing else on.
If we take each area in turn, we can see just what Hugo Lloris has to do with his distribution.
Split centre backs
In order to stretch and wear out the opposition’s front line, Mauricio Pochettino has our centre backs split extremely wide. This usually sees them moving to positions outside the widths of the penalty area when the goalkeeper has possession.
This should be the easiest distribution method for the goalie to reliably find his centre halves. At least one of them should be free against teams that only have one striker or don’t adopt a heavy press. Even if the opposition does bring pressure, there is a lot of ground to cover with the two centre backs being located so wide and the opposition should tire over a 90-minute match.
Defensive midfielder dropping in
The next player the goalkeeper needs to be able to find is the defensive midfielder dropping between the split centre backs.
This option is useful if the opposition is covering the centre backs split wide, but is also fraught with danger as the ball is being played straight out in front of the goal and often short.
This is often a high risk, high reward pass. If the player dropping in can turn, he can get the attack moving forward quickly. If he can’t and gets caught on the ball or his pass is intercepted, the centre backs are massively out of position and the opposition is in on goal.
Full backs pushing on
With the centre backs moving in to wider zones when the keeper has the ball, the full backs are required to get much higher up the park. This makes this pass often tricky to complete as it requires a great deal of accuracy and finesse to neither under nor over hit it. Too short and it will be hovered up by an opposing player in a dangerous position. Too long and it could go out for a throw.
Hugo Lloris regularly has to play this pass, as opposing teams are wiser now to what we do. We can see how he completes a number of them to Danny Rose against Stoke in very high up positions at the halfway line.
In our 3-0 win over Bournemouth we can see how, with the centre backs being covered, Lloris makes this pass to Kyle Walker perfectly to get our opening goal started.
Several Bournemouth players are taken out of the game as the ball goes over their heads and Kyle Walker is into a great attacking position. A higher risk pass, but higher reward.
Finding the striker
Mauricio Pochettino requires two types of passes from the goalkeeper to the centre forward.
The first is to hit him through the air with an accurate high ball. This pass can be as a release valve as the goalkeeper is under pressure and needs to clear his lines. It can also be to move the ball swiftly up-field as the centre forward has an aerial or size advantage on the defender. He can then hold play up for others to join in.
A good example of this pass was on our first goal in our 3-0 win over Man Utd. Being closed down by Anthony Martial, Hugo Lloris clears long looking for Harry Kane. We win the second ball and Dele Alli scores.
The second type of pass is a low-driven one over the ground to find the number nine as he comes short in to midfield. Mauricio Pochettino often uses his centre forward to drop off and make passes to the runners beyond him, as we have seen Harry Kane do this season, a type of striker pull effect. This is one way of getting the ball quickly to Kane, so that he can drag defenders out of position, allowing others to run beyond him in to good attacking zones.
Hugo Lloris distribution efficiency
Being an excellent goalkeeper is never questioned when it comes to Hugo Lloris. What is often in doubt can be his distribution. However, when you compare him to other Premier League goalkeepers, although their teams play different styles where they may not need a stopper who is good on the ball, he stands up incredibly well.
Only Kasper Schmeichel (822) has played more passes than Hugo Lloris (800) in the Premier League, but his pass completion (37.1%) is way lower than Lloris 66.1%. Now, Leicester play a lot more long ball so would complete a lower number of passes. However, even when comparing Lloris to other possession heavy sides that build from the back, no keeper completes nearly the same percentage of passes as him. Simon Mignolet is the closest with 61% completion, Lukas Fabianski next at 60.6%, Petr Cech at 59.8%, Tim Howard at 58.4%, David de Gea at 55.9%, Joe Hart at 53.4% or Thibault Courtois with 46.8% completion.
So, even though we do see a few wayward or stray passes, Hugo Lloris has had a pretty exceptional season with the ball at his feet. Overall, being able to consistently hit the four zones that Mauricio Pochettino requires him to has been key in building our attacks from the back.