Saturday 22 September 2018

'We will never change the way we play'

Lloris adamant Spurs will stick with fearless style that sank United ahead of Anfield trip

Hugo Lloris: ‘The manager tries to teach us every day to be brave and have no fear of the opposition, even if Liverpool is an aggressive team too’. Photo: Getty Images
Hugo Lloris: ‘The manager tries to teach us every day to be brave and have no fear of the opposition, even if Liverpool is an aggressive team too’. Photo: Getty Images

David Hytner

Harry Kane started sprinting before the first whistle in Tottenham Hotspur's 2-0 Wembley win over Manchester United on Wednesday night and, for Hugo Lloris, it was a moment to symbolise the team. Kane was not the only one. So did Dele Alli and so did Christian Eriksen.

Kane got away with encroaching into the United half and, when Jan Vertonghen launched a high ball forward, the striker rose to win the header. Alli arrived at pace and, when the ball broke, there was Eriksen, on the scene without checking his stride, to shoot Tottenham into the lead after 11 seconds. United were shellshocked.

To Lloris it was a dramatic example of everything Spurs have sought to do under Mauricio Pochettino: impose themselves and play with intensity, control and fearlessness.

The victory over United was one of the most eye-catching performances of the manager's three-and-a-half-year tenure in north London and it has provided the template for today's visit to Liverpool. Tottenham are in the throes of a punishing period of fixtures. After Anfield - and an FA Cup replay at home to Newport County on Wednesday - they entertain Arsenal before travelling to Juventus for the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie.

Overall Pochettino's Spurs record in away games against big six rivals is poor. It reads: P18 W1 D6 L11. His only reward at Liverpool was the 1-1 draw in April 2016 .

But when Tottenham make the sort of statement they did against United - overwhelming them at the outset and keeping the boot on their throat throughout - Lloris believes they ought to be confident against anybody. It does not matter to him that they will be away from home.

"We will never change the way we play; this is the mentality of the manager," the goalkeeper and captain says. "It is what he tries to teach us every day: to be brave and have no fear of the opponent, even if Liverpool is an aggressive team, too.

"We don't really adapt the system against the opponent. We try to get control of the ball, get control of the game and try to bring the intensity. The key is aggression too because, if you let teams like Manchester United play, they have so much that they can beat you easily.

"That's why teamwork is very important. Everyone knows what he has to do on the pitch defensively and offensively. Then, when you add the talent with the right spirit, you can make great things, like on Wednesday [against United]."

The fight for control at Anfield promises to be intriguing, given Liverpool's high-energy style under Jürgen Klopp. What stood out for Tottenham against United was what they did without the ball, as much as what they did with it. Pochettino's players pressed in tightly drilled packs of three and four and they closed down United's options.

One of the tributes to them was that a José Mourinho team came to look devoid of structure .

"The manager sees football in a simple way," Lloris says of the Argentinian. "It's just the way we play - trying to get the control, trying not to fear the opponent, trying to be brave and working hard every day to be competitive. To always try to push the limits.

"This is the professional side to him and the human side is fantastic, too, because his door is always open to the players. He always tries to help, whether it is football or other things in life like your family. He will always give the chance to a player and then it is up to the player.

"The manager's passion is amazing _ for the game and the work and, also, for the human side."

Pochettino is the fourth-longest serving manager in the Premier League and the connections he has fostered between his players were there for all to see in Eriksen's goal against United.

The manager says: "The belief and the run from Christian were fantastic. There was no waiting. He decided and anticipated. That is one to show the academy players on video."

Pochettino is charged with evolving the blend and his January deadline day signing of Lucas Moura from Paris Saint-Germain was the latest move. Lloris, the France captain, feels that the Argentinian winger can bring a new dimension.

"I know him, of course, as I follow the French league and he has a different profile which will help us," Lloris says. "It is true that he hasn't played often this season with PSG but it is for different reasons, not sporting reasons. He is a great talent. He loves the space, is very sharp and quick and is good technically. I think he is going to adapt very quickly and very well in our system."

How Lloris and Pochettino would love a statement away win today but, as the critics highlight the lack of silverware, both are clear that progress is being made. After 25 matches the team have 48 points; they had 50 at the corresponding point of last season but this time they have advanced in the Champions League. The Liverpool game has implications for the push for a third consecutive top-four finish.

"You always need to look at where you have come from," Lloris says. "A few seasons ago we were so far from this. We are still a young team but now we have team experience and that is very important to win trophies. Step by step it will hopefully come."

Observer

  • Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur, Sky Sports 4.30

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