Friedel can give Tottenham one more season of quality performances

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Tottenham

1st Team Goalkeepers: Brad Friedel (41), Carlo Cudicini (38), Heurelho Gomes (31), David Button (23)

Tottenham’s pursuit of Hugo Lloris was about the only major goalkeeping transfer saga of the summer. In the end it came to nowt as Spurs found out Jean Michel Aulus is a stubborn negotiator and Andre Villas-Boas refused to budge on the transfer fee. The fee considered to be too rich for Villas-Boas’s tastes was €20 million. For some, it was spend the money now and you have a top quality goalkeeper sorted for the next 10 years. For others, little could be read into his Lyon form and there were lingering doubts about his ability to flourish in the Premier League. The truth was probably somewhere in the middle. There would have been a few blips as there always are, but the size of such a prize tag always makes them seem more calamitous than the really are.

Based on the evidence of last season, he’s not needed. For one more season at least. Brad Friedel’s performances last terms showed he was still a very capable top flight performer and barring a bizarrely sudden dip in form, he will be able to achieve similar standards this time around. Keeping the chequebook on ice until next summer may not be the worst of ideas. Lloris will no doubt be linked with a move again and his fee is unlikely to have increased too dramatically, regardless of the season he has.

With Friedel into his 40s, injury concerns always feature prominently. That’s not to paint a picture of the American being a frail old man, but naturally enough, time makes the knocks harder to shake off. It’s a concern, but the usually reliable supersub, Carlo Cudicini is also showing signs of wear and tear. He’s not the solid back up he once was.

That brings Heurehlo Gomes into the equation – a prospect that will probably terrify Spurs fans. In fairness to the Brazilian, his ability has been plain to see, but it’s constantly undermined by errors of concentration that lead to mistakes. Concentration is one of the hardest things to work, especially when you’re not getting regular football. If Cudicini or Gomes are needed for a few games, Spurs should be fine, but Friedel is the first choice and he’s badly needed.

David Button has been at the club since 2008, but hasn’t started a game. He’s had 13 loan spells in that period and he probably expect to add to that figure in the upcoming season as he builds up his experience.

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5 Facts about Tottenham target, Hugo Lloris

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Based on the form of the season gone by, there’s no urgent need for Tottenham to replace Brad Friedel. But obviously his ability to remain the Peter Pan of the Premier League will eventually come to an end and strong reports have circulated about Tottenham signing Hugo Lloris as the long-term replacement for the American.

Lloris is said to be keen on the move, with some reports claiming he has agreed personal terms. The sticking point is said to be Lyon’s colourful president, Jean Michel Aulas, who is said to be demanding €20 million, €5 million more than Spurs have reportedly offered.

It remains to be seen if the deal will be completed’ but the Frenchman is clearly a young man of uncommon maturity and ability. Here are five facts you might not have known about Hugo Lloris.

#1 During his time with Lyon, Lloris’s longest spell without conceding a goal last for 558 minutes. A run of five consecutive clean sheets came to an end when Cristiano Ronaldo put a goal past him in for Real Madrid in a Champions League tie.

#2 When Lloris first signed for Lyon from Nice in 2008, he went five games and 483 minutes (one of the games went to extra time and penalties) before conceding his first goal for his new club.

#3 The Nice native has been voted Ligue 1 Goalkeeper of the Season on three ocassions. His first accolade came in at the end of the 2008/09 season and his most recent came in the season just passed.

#4 Before joining Lyon, Lloris was on the verge of joining AC Milan. With terms agreed, the deal collapsed as Christain Abbiati refused a proposed move to Palermo.

#5 Lloris earned his first cap for France against Uruguay in November 2008 and almost exactly two years later was appointed captain for the first time as Les Bleus faced England at Wembley.


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Premier League 2011/12 GK Preview: Tottenham

Tottenham

Brad Friedel

1st Team Squad Goalkeepers: Brad Friedel, Carlo Cudicini, Heurehlo Gomes, Ben Alnwick

Overview: Snapping up Brad Friedel on a free was hailed as a bit of a coup for Tottenham. With time catching up on the American, he’s clearly not the long-term solution, but any signing that limits the possibility of Heurehlo Gomes seeing much in the way of playing time is something that will sit well with Spurs fans. Friedel has been an excellent addition to the Premier League and he still has something to give, but last season I felt for the first time he was beginning to look his age. The razor-sharp reflexes are still there, his hands are still trustworthy and his unrelenting bravery remains constant, but at times I felt his legs lacked the power we’re used to seeing. He looked sluggish coming off his line and at times a little rigid. He’s obviously not in the prime of youth, but he’s still a better option than the Brazilian for this season at least.

Carlo Cudicini is an interesting and at times frustrating case. His talent is undoubted, but when Petr Cech arrived at Chelsea, he seemed a little too comfortable with playing second fiddle. He spent arguably the prime of his career warming the bench at Stamford Bridge, but far from being the leash of life admirers of goalkeeping hoped it would be, his time at White Hart Lane has featured almost as many splinters. Even with Tottenham occasionally struggling to find a top class keeper, the Italian was rarely in the frame to claim the position as his own and with his 38th birthday looming, it’s again looking unlikely that he will be Harry’s first choice.

Many people would have assumed that the end of season would have brought the curtain down on Gomes’s Tottenham career, but as the off-season rolls on, talk of a move away is virtually non-existent. Harry has made the career of many a player by giving them a second or third chance, but the thought of Gomes returning for more than the odd cup game must strike Tottenham fans with utter terror. At his best, Gomes is a pleasure to watch. He’s graceful and agile and capable of reaching seemingly unstoppable shots. Sadly however, we’ve never had too long to wait before the mistakes come and the most frustrating part of the errors is the wide variety. At times it’s a bad decision to come for a cross, at others its woeful handling and then from time to time it’s a mix-up with his defenders. It’s hard to coach them out of his game, because they seem to mistakes stemming from a lack of concentration or an inability to focus. We’ve seen him times to know he can catch a ball cleanly, so when he lets one squirm through his fingers, it has to be related to whatever is going on in that head of his. Ben Alnwich is likely to go out on loan in an attempt to see more first team action somewhere.

Worst case scenario: Tottenham have the depth to ensure that at any given time, they have the option to drop an under-performing keeper for another one of decent quality. The problem may be that despite this, none of the goalkeepers perform especially well and end up costing the team valuable points in their hunt for another go at Champions League football.

What will probably happen: Friedel will perform well with Cudicini as his able deputy and Gomes will be sold before the transfer window closes.

Brad Friedel Retirement?

Brad Friedel

At what point does a goalkeeper become ‘old’? Is it when he doesn’t recognise any of the songs in the charts? Or maybe it’s that moment when you actually have an opinion on the merits of a range of various denture adhesives. Or is any goalie who takes a thermos of Bovril into the goalmouth perhaps on the wrong side of the hill?

It’s clearly a wonderfully unclear subject. Some keepers will get to their early thirties and feel the creeking joints aren’t able to handle being thrown around the penalty area, whilst others will reach their 40s and think they’re able to keep going for another couple of decades until the pension or an interest in moaning about youngsters kicks in. With a sizable proportion of Premier League 1st choice keepers now qualified as fully fledged veterans, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about age and how it affects the performances of the goalie.

Speaking to a former journeyman pro on the European PGA Tour recently, he maintained that in most aspects of the game, he was still a match for the younger star attractions in the sport. His driving was by and large as accurate and lengthy as the youngsters whilst his approach play was, if anything, better thanks to years of experience. The one aspect of his game that he felt was suffering was the putting – the simple, unspectacular, but all important act of putting. From tee to green, the difference was barely noticeable, but with putter in hand, he lacked the less discernible touch of old.

Although the comparison may not transfer directly to football, I would suggest that in goalkeeping, it’s also the subtler and less spectacular parts of the game that are the first to suffer. Without wanting to bash Brad Friedel, his performances in recent weeks would seem to have the hallmarks of a goalie approaching the end of his career. The funny thing is he’s still playing to a very high level. Against Arsenal he made a reflex save that was simply stunning and that level of performance was by no means an isolated incident. He has been doing it all season for Villa and if goalkeeping was all about reactions he’d have several seasons ahead of him yet.

Sadly it’s not all about reflexes and the ravages of age are starting to take hold in less obvious ways. He’s not throwing balls into his own net, but there are hints he’s not quite the athlete of old. His legs don’t seem to provide the spring they once did. Against Blackburn, he allowed a long range Pedersen free-kick to go over him and into the net. What was perhaps most worrying about it was the fact the American seemed to judge the flight of it pretty well and was in a decent position to save it, but when it came to jumping and keeping it out, he failed to get the necessary vault and was left clutching at fresh air. On other occasions, he’s been slow to get off his line out to an oncoming attacker. Not slow in the sense of realising he needs to advance as the player walks around him whilst he’s still pondering, but in the sense of it’s taking him slightly longer to cover ground than it once was. The differences are minute, but crucial. For example, if it once took him 1.2 seconds to cover 10 yards previously, it may be taking him 1.4 seconds cover the same distance these days. Arguing the toss about one fifth of a second is generally the staple of utterly mundane Formula One punditry, but in this case it’s more than just the difference between one car going really fast and another car going really really fast. For a goalkeeper in a 1 v 1 situation, that time is important. The further the keeper is away, the more of the goal the attacker has to aim at and in the last few weeks there have been times when Freidel hasn’t closed down quick enough. It maybe hasn’t cost Villa a hold load of goals, but it might. For a man of such immense size and stature, maybe speed and agility have never been his strongest traits, but his immense talent has covered for the weaknesses.

The American has been a wonderful Premier League goalkeeper and given fans plenty to savour over the years. He owes fans of football in general and goalkeepers in particular absolutely nothing, so calling it at day at the end of the season and shortly after his 40th birthday would be entirely understandable. What’s made his resurgence at Blackburn and then Villa all the more enjoyable is that fact he bounced back so superbly after a poor spell with Liverpool. But Villa look like they’re already making post-Friedel plans. The highly-rated Brad Guzan was initially thought to be the natural long term replacement, but his appearances have been generally confined to the cup competitions which would suggest he isn’t making the progress expected of him. Speculation linking Alan McGregor of Rangers with a move to Villa Park would seem to confirm the suspicion Friedel’s compatriot isn’t seen as first team material.

Without wanting to start writing his footballing obituary, time may be catching up with Friedel, but whatever he decides, he has been amongst the finest of his generation.