After a lengthy injury setback Fraser Forster has stormed back into Premier League form in 2016. Now in sixth, can he lead the Saints even further up the table?
- Name: Fraser Forster
- Position: Goalkeeper
- Fantasy Price: £7.1m (PlayON), £5.0m (FPL)
- Appearances: 6
- Clean Sheets: 6
- Saves: 17
Fraser Forster has taken a long road to Premier League prominence. Despite being on the books at Newcastle for over six years, Forster never did make the breakthrough on Tyneside. In fact, he never made a single appearance for the club, as Shay Given and later Tim Krul kept him firmly at arms length until he left the club in 2010.
It was further north that the 6ft 7 keeper rose to acclaim both domestically and in Europe. His superhero displays against the likes of Barcelona during Celtic’s Champions League campaigns made clubs south of the border sit up and take notice, with Southampton eventually securing his signature before the start of last season.
In his debut season, the Englishman had kept an impressive 13 clean sheets across thirty league appearances. This stunning run of form was cruelly curtailed in March of last year when he sustained a broken kneecap against Burnley. This put him out of competitive action until January of this year when he resumed his clean sheet keeping duties with 2-0 victory over Watford.
Southampton faltered during last season’s run-in, and a large chunk of that can be apportioned to Forster’s absence. In the nine games he missed, they conceded 12 goals.This time around they look set to invert the trend.
In their past six games, Southampton have won five, lost none and conceded none. Forster’s defining game of the season was undoubtedly his super-heroic display against Arsenal, where he made ten saves- many of which were astounding – to keep the score at 0-0. The plaudits and praise deservedly flew in, and his boss was at the front of the queue to quantify his value to Southampton.
He is one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League and maybe he is one of the best in Europe – Ronald Koeman
However, credit for this recent form should also go to a reinvigorated Saints defence. The likes of Fonte and van Dijk have marshalled the defensive unit expertly, strangling their opponents to such an extent that Forster has been called into just seven saves across his other five appearances this season.
Fraser deserves all the compliments he gets, as does the defensive line. It is all about teamwork and we are all doing our jobs in that area – Oriol Romeu
The question is, with all this good work at the back, can Southampton push on even further this season? Their next and potentially biggest test will be this weekend’s fixture against Chelsea.
These two are some of the most in-form sides in the league, with the Blues yet to be beaten under the stewardship of Guus Hiddink. Through the guidance of the wise Dutchman they’ve rekindled an attacking ethos, failing to score only against Manchester United and Watford so far.
A reinvigorated Diego Costa could be the biggest test Forster will come across since his return – the Spain international has now scored in four of his last five league games and looks like the player we saw throughout last season.
An issue for Southampton has been a relative lack of firepower. With Graziano Pelle suffering his apparently annual trail off in form and fitness, and Sadio Mane failing the capture the same spark around the box as he had done earlier in the season, are the necessary goals there?
Shane Long has chipped in on occasion and Charlie Austin is still finding his feet in the Southampton set-up, but can either provide the sufficient ammo to push Southampton up that extra gear? In their last three victories they’ve won games by a margin of just one goal. Their counter attacking approach without a free-scoring striker has been a risky approach, but it’s worked of late.
Sitting just one point behind Manchester United, it seems to be up to the Saints or their similarly punchy competitors, West Ham, to leapfrog the flagging giants. Some are even suggesting that Forster and this Southampton side could start putting together a late charge to put heat on 4th place. This however, seems fanciful – the Chelsea game will show us their true mettle.
It’s easy to see why some are suggesting this though. With relatively simpler matches with Bournemouth, Sunderland, Stoke and Liverpool are all on the horizon after Chelsea, Southampton and Forster certainly carry both fantasy and realisic potential in the coming weeks.
Forster is effectively picking up where he left off last season, and maybe playing to an even higher standard. The limit for him and this Saints team could be revealed in Gameweek 27.