André Villas-Boas is as good as his word. The Tottenham Hotspur manager said Brad Friedel was his number one goalkeeper, and he’s set to follow through. Thus the former U.S. international will start this weekend against Reading, making recently acquired France national team captain Hugo Lloris the best number two in world soccer.
Based on how Friedel has played, the decision’s easily justifiable. A few key saves from the incumbent is the only thing that salvaged a point in Spurs’ last match, a performance that made the Lloris acquisition even more curious.
Sure, getting a world class goalkeeper for £10 million is a steal, but acquiring a player to immediately upset him is generally considered … I was about to say “a no-no,” but this situation is never really discussed. It’s just assumed you don’t want to anger your newest acquisitions. Paying for somebody only to destroy his trust in the club is goes without saying bad.
Of course, Spurs are entitled to play whomever has earned the job, but based on what we know from France coach Didier Deschamps, Lloris is none too happy with the state he’s in. It seems very unlikely the former Lyon number one would move if he knew he was destined for the bench, and considering the implications on Lloris’s career (for club and internationally), it’s arguably unethical for Spurs not to give him a heads up. This may have just been poor planning on Lloris’s part, but based on his reaction to seeing the bench, he’s certainly been taken off guard.
All of which forces us to ask what’s going on at Spurs. On the heels of their near-broken promise to Luka Modric (saying they’d sell him only to make him a pawn in a game of chicken), the Lloris misunderstanding looks terrible. Tottenham surely can’t be the least talent-friendly club in the world (after all, players still go there), but this is horrible player relations. Think you’re going to be allowed to leave? Screw you. You’re staying. Think you’re going to play? Screw you. You’re sitting. Oh, we gave you the impression otherwise? Screw you. You’re under contract.
And then there’s the case of Michael Dawson. As a Twitter friend reminded me, the Spurs’ captain and former regular in central defense found himself on the transfer list before he had a chance to fill Ledley King’s armband. There were some pre-deadline rumors the England international would move (and plenty of clubs would want him), but he’s still at Spurs, yet to see action this season. Villas-Boas’s obligated to play his best defenders, but Dawson’s is another unfortunate situation. You’d ideally like to do better by players who’ve been at the club for nine years and garnered enough respect to earn the captaincy.
Friedel is on the other side of that line. His play has put him in Villas-Boas’s good graces. Until he falters, he doesn’t have to worry about feeling the rougher edges of Spurs’ player relations (or lack there of). He’s one of the lucky ones.