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Not for the first time under Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham left Wembley on Sunday as the losing team despite having the lion's share of possession and chances.
The 2-1 defeat to Chelsea was not dissimilar to the 4-2 reverse to the same opponents in April's FA Cup semi-final, and Spurs can also claim to have been the better team in the matches against Monaco and Gent last season.
“Wembley is not a problem. We are the problem if we don’t play [well] and don’t win, like last season. Please, stop,” an exasperated Pochettino told the media ahead of the club's first Premier League match at their temporary home. And so it proved, as uncharacteristic mistakes and a lack of composure cost Tottenham at the national stadium again.
Pochettino has faced criticism for his decisions – neither Victor Wanyama nor Kieran Trippier looked fully fit and the manager opted for an unusual 4-3-3 formation – but most of the flak has been reserved for club captain Hugo Lloris.
“If Tottenham had a better goalkeeper, I think they might have won the league already. If you look at most Premier League winners their goalkeeper has been extraordinary, and I just think Lloris is good, nothing more,” said Tony Cascarino, the former Blues forward, who claimed Lloris is not at the same level as Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois.
Lloris was powerless to prevent Marcos Alonso's stunning 22nd-minute free-kick but he was arguably at fault – twice – for the Spaniard's winner three minutes from time.
The goalkeeper hastily threw the ball to a distracted and struggling Wanyama, who was dispossessed, before he dived over Alonso's low finish, when staying put may have stopped the shot.
They were Chelsea's only two shots on target, while Antonio Conte's team scored four times from five efforts on target in April, when Lloris was probably at fault for Willian's opening goal.
In six matches at Wembley since the start of last season, Spurs have now conceded 12 goals from 15 shots on target and Lloris has been the goalkeeper on each occasion. While the criticism, led by Cascarino, has hardly been overwhelming, there will be an unusual amount of scrutiny on one of Spurs' most consistent performers when they return to Wembley to play Burnley on Sunday.
Lloris was quick to acknowledge his role in a damaging defeat. “My frustration is even more personal because the second goal is a lack of success on my part,” he said – but his mistakes on Sunday should not only be viewed as anomalies but also in the context of how Pochettino wants him to play.
Like Pep Guardiola, whose decision to ditch Joe Hart was well-publicised, the bedrock of Pochettino's philosophy is building from the back. This starts with the goalkeeper, who is encouraged to play risky, short passes to feet, rather than play long.
While supporters may regard these passes in their own penalty box as pointless and uneccesary, Pochettino has said that he know his team are flustered when the goalkeeper or defenders resort to direct balls.
Lloris is rarely allowed the easy option and he is always under pressure to play a perfect pass. His distribution to Wanyama was questionable – he probably had better options – but he was following Pochettino's way, and criticism of his part in Chelsea's winner should be reserved for his technique in responding to Alonso's low drive.
If Lloris' kicking is occasionally erratic – he was guilty of a high-profile kicking error in France's World Cup qualifying defeat to Sweden in June – it is usually impressive, and his position and speed off his line are nothing short of world-class.
The 30-year-old is asked to play as a sweeper-keeper – a role perfected by Manuel Neuer at Bayern Munich – and there is no-one better in the Premier League at sweeping up balls played behind the defence.
It is perhaps understandable that Lloris has not felt entirely comfortable at Wembley, given that the extra space has disrupted Spurs' high defensive-line and left the defenders feeling occasionally disorientated. But Lloris is usually the best in the business at being an auxiliary defender.
As well as being comfortable adhering to Pochettino's precise instructions, Lloris is a superb shot-stopper and leader, and he has been no small part in Tottenham's defensive solidarity in the last two years. Spurs are lucky to have a genuinely world-class performer, who is the captain of one of the favourites for next summer's World Cup.
Given his relatively lack of success since joining the club from Lyon in 2012, Lloris could have jumped ship on any number of occasions and Spurs would not be able to find a replacement anywhere near as impressive.
Like every goalkeeper, Lloris makes mistakes and, more than in any position, they tend to be costly and noticeable. Ultimately, for every error he has made, however, he can count at least two saves that he had no right to make and the criticism of his performances at Wembley seems particularly unfair given that he, more than anyone, stepped-up during last season's dismal Champions League campaign.