Hugo Lloris makes a promise. “The team will look different than a few months ago.”
It is one of a few moments when he sounds different. Another is when he’s asked about what actually went wrong for Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino, and why problems have continued under Jose Mourinho.
Amid so many measured answers about the coronavirus crisis and everything else, Lloris lets out a sigh, and hints there’s more he could say.
That itself probably indicates a return to some normality, even if the goalkeeper admits Project Restart still feels “strange”. He also suggests a lot of Spurs’ problems developed because they overstretched themselves for so long.
“Wow, it’s difficult to explain, and I couldn’t go too deep,” Lloris says, initially laughing. “But there is also a risk when you go over your potential. Last season, we went on an incredible run in the Champions League and we finished the season on our knees. You don’t have time to recover from one season before you have to start a new one, and then there was an accumulation of things that provoked the situation, and then of course a lot of injured players, the change of manager.
“It’s difficult to stay stable and be always looking at the top. There is sometimes one season when everything goes against you, but that doesn’t mean you deserve this situation. Obviously, if we are in this situation it’s because we didn’t make everything go better. The responsibility is to share between us.
“But we have to make sure it is only one season and make sure next season we will be ready again to compete with the top teams. Maybe [it’s] the consequence when you play four years making a huge effort to compete with the top teams and finish in the top four. It’s a lot of accumulation and one season. There is everything you cannot control. It can happen.”
Then, the Covid-19 crisis happened. As grave as the situation has been in the real world, it may be of genuine benefit to Spurs in a football sense. It may allow them to get up off “their knees”. They’re certainly fitter now, not least stars like Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min.
It is why Lloris makes that promise.
Life certainly looks different, but the France international – like many people – has been appreciative of a temporary slowdown in life.
He’s also been appreciative of the NHS workers, and Spurs’ ‘Hotspur Heroes’ campaign is one reason he’s speaking.
“I think the club and the foundation of the club are making a fantastic job. We can only be proud of the NHS and the people on the frontline for the jobs they have done until now. Not only in England, but everywhere in the world, of course France. They are the real heroes.
“You could not expect that type of thing, only watch it on a movie, no? And then the movie became reality, so it made it a bit scary.
“It’s been three months and it’s not something you want to live, but I enjoyed sharing this moment with my family and to be close to my kids and my wife, and to spend the time together. When you are involved in football, there are plenty of sacrifices and spending time with your family is one of them. So I just wanted to make sure I spent it in the right way and be ready for the competition.
“We’ve had the training session every morning on Zoom, and then step-by-step we introduce training at the training ground.”
That actually involved a decent stretch without touching the ball.
“I took this period like a pre-season. There were four or five weeks without a ball and with some fitness work. This was what I really needed. I’m not worried about the ball.
“I was more focused on my fitness. It was more about gym, upper body, lower body, prevention work, cardio work on the bike or jogging in the area with the GPS. Then I started to train as a goalkeeper when I came back to the training ground with my goalkeeping coach Nuno [Santos].”
This is all why he feels Spurs will look different.
“We introduce sessions with the full team and the full squad and the feeling is getting there. The team will look different than a few months ago.
“It’s not been a long time that we are working as a team, but at least we can feel all the players back at a good fitness level. And ready to help the team, ready to compete. We are going in a good way. It is only a question of time, a question of confidence, too, because the only way to get better is to win games and keep winning. This is the only feeling that will help the team to improve and to reach the level we all expect.”
He points to Kane as an example for the team yet again.
“He is ready. In his mind he is ready and that’s the most important thing. He recovered very well from his bad injury and he is the one really looking forward to getting back into the competition. Everyone knows his targets, his ambition and his willingness to win. We all need the repetition of games to reach our best level, but that is going to be the case even for the opponents we are going to play. Harry is in a good place and just waiting to start the season again, like all of us.
“Already we can talk about the full squad. So it’s like a new season that is going to start.
“It is true that in this moment we were not at our best. It is fair to say that. But it belongs to the past.”
There is a determination to Lloris there, ahead of the “opening” match at home to Manchester United on Friday.
“We have to be honest, we are not in a good position at the moment. Five points to Manchester United, seven points to Chelsea. We don’t have the right to lose games. Even more when you face a direct opponent like Manchester United. We are going to start again with a very important game, maybe a decisive game for the future. Even if behind this game there are eight games to play, this game is going to count in the balance.”
Lloris is asked whether it will be a problem if Spurs don’t qualify for the Champions League, given the new stadium and the financial situation.
“That’s a question for the board, no? We are talking about the financial place and I don’t get all the tools to answer that question. I can only talk about the pitch and for us we want to be involved in the biggest competition and it’s the Champions League. If we don’t get it, it will be a disappointment, but we will have to react straight away for the next season.”
There is a fair question over what next season will look like. There may be a lot to cram in, especially if there is little break between campaigns, and Euro 2020 starts in early June 2021 as expected.
Lloris does express concern here.
“The players are going to be at risk, because there will be a lot of games and a lot of repetition of games. We don’t even talk about the break in the summer, because we will see if there is space to get it. We just try to be focused on step by step. At the moment, the focus is on ending the league. We will have a little break and then, yeah, we are going to start again. We have to look after our bodies even more than before and I just hope it will not affect the performances and the spectacle for the supporters. The five [substitutions] will help, maybe not for me, but it will go on the players’ side.”
There is also the question of where his old boss will be next season.
“I’m always in touch with Mauricio and his staff. They represent more than my ex-manager. We are talking about a friendship and I will follow the news to see his future.
“To be honest, I just want him to be happy and to be at the place that he deserves. Most important is that he will be happy where he will be.”
Lloris maintains that the Spurs squad themselves are much happier now than they were three months ago. They’re fresh, and up off their knees. They’re ready to play differently, amid a very different situation.
Lloris helped launch the ‘Hotspur Heroes’ campaign with a video call to a Spurs-supporting NHS worker. The campaign aims to celebrate fans on the frontline during the pandemic and give fellow supporters the chance to nominate those deserving of recognition at this time.