Premier League

Q&A: Tottenham Hotspur vs Southampton

The introduction of Manolo Gabbiadini has sparked Claude Puel’s side into life, placing confidence into each and every Southampton fan. Having spent much of the season ruing their missed chances, Southampton now find themselves in free-scoring form – striking the back of the net 10 times in their last three fixtures. But when your upcoming opponents are sitting 2nd in the League and have scored an impressive 13 goals from their last three clashes, Southampton sure do have one hell of a challenge on their hands.

To find out more about this weekend’s opponents, we spoke with Nikhil Saglani – a Tottenham Hotspur fan and writer for Yahoo Sport.

Firstly, what are your thoughts on Tottenham’s season so far?

It’s been very mixed! Both European competitions were a disaster – and whilst many use Wembley as an excuse, it can’t take the full brunt of the blame. However, the league campaign has been markedly better. We’ve only lost three times in the league – all away at top six sides – but are unbeaten at White Hart Lane, which will give the squad and fans a lot of confidence going to the game, even without Harry Kane!

Who has been your player of the season?

It’s a toss up between Kyle Walker and Victor Wanyama. I’m going to say the former purely because he’s been a tad more consistent. Walker has put in numerous outstanding performances from right back and right wing-back, a position in which he’s taken his game to another level going forwards, but defensively too.

As an outsider looking in, what is your perception of Southampton this season?

It seems like it’s been a really disappointing season in the Premier League and Europa League, but I’m sure the cup final and the day at Wembley will be a great memory – despite the result! I can’t say I’ve watched you incredibly closely but I know Claude Puel’s not had the immediate impact that Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman had when they first joined, but it seems like things have improved recently, especially after the signing of Manolo Gabbiadini.

If you could take any Southampton player, who would it be and why?

This is a tough one as I’d say Virgil Van Dijk is most probably your best player, but our biggest problem position is up front – where I’d like another striker. Having said that, I’ll go for Van Dijk as he’d slot into our back three seamlessly, adding an extra bit of experience and depth to the side.

What have you made of former Saint, Victor Wanyama, during his first season?

When he joined us in the summer, many thought he’d be a strong squad player behind Eric Dier but he’s forced his way into the side and been incredibly solid – improving our incredible defence from last season and taking it to the next level. He’s also been a key reason in why we’ve transitioned so well into the 3-4-3 formation, putting in excellent shifts next to both Mousa Dembele and Harry Winks. And he’s also chipped in with three goals; without getting sent off!

How does a team typically need to play in order to beat Spurs?

Stop us playing. Manchester United and Manchester City did it perfectly at their own grounds. If you get in our faces and stop the likes of Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Dembele and the full backs from getting on the ball, you will enjoy some success. However, that’s far easier said than done. With Kane out, I’d expect Heung-min Son to step in in a ‘false nine’ role and he’s arguably more lively than Kane, always moving between the lines and out wide too. His footwork is incredible and, more often than not, he has a lethal strike on him. Kane being out is a huge blow, but with the goalscoring form of Alli and Son, we may be able to cope okay.

What would make for a successful end to the season?

We have to finish in the top four, because we need to keep achieving Champions League to attract a better level of player to White Hart Lane. We’d all love to win the FA Cup too, but it won’t be an easy task with Chelsea in the semi-final and Arsenal/Manchester City in the final! If we get both, it’ll be an incredible season. But even just one of them will be impressive. This side, and Pochettino, need a trophy – but it’d be a shame to miss out on the top four now.

And finally, what do you think the score will be this Sunday?

If we had Kane, I’d have said a very comfortable Spurs win. We’ve been on fire at home in 2017, scoring 26 goals in eight games at the Lane since the turn of the year. In the two games he didn’t play, albeit, against Wycombe Wanderers and Millwall (where he played five minutes), we scored 10. Despite our main man not being there, I’m going to say 2-0 to Spurs.

Preview: Sunderland vs Southampton

Following on from six defeats in our last seven fixtures, this would normally be the perfect time for any team to face a side in the bottom three. But when that side has just picked a point and a clean sheet against Tottenham Hotspur, before going on to fire four past Crystal Palace, completing that challenge is far easier said than done.

So, we spoke to www.wearewearside.com to find out what we can expect to see from Sunderland this coming Saturday.  

Firstly, what are your thoughts on Sunderland’s season so far?

It has been a bit of a disaster in all honesty, in keeping with the start of our last four seasons. We lost our manager in pre-season because Roy Hodgson couldn’t beat Iceland, our Chief Executive told his we are skint and to top it all off we ended up signing Joleon Lescott! However, there have been periods where Sunderland have looked a decent team, most notably last week as we tore Crystal Palace apart.

How do you believe David Moyes wants his Sunderland side to play?

Moyes has spent most of the season trying to figure that out I think. We have finally settled on a system which is working decently. Right now Sunderland usually line up with three centre backs and wing backs, so the usual approach is to soak up pressure and try to create space for Jermain Defoe on the counter. We don’t have that much pace, so you normally see quite a few players trying to get forward.

How does this seasons squad and performances compare to previous years?

Not much has changed in that respect. Sunderland start the season poorly, sack the manager (looks like we will be spared that ritual this season) and win our last five games to stay up! We are closer to safety than we usually are at this time of year, so I’d say it’s going better in that respect.

After a draw at Spurs and a thrashing of Crystal Palace, are Southampton facing a Sunderland side in their best form of the season so far?

It’s hard to say really. Whilst both of those results were excellent, we are missing a lot of players through injury right now. Earlier in the season we won three games in four matches against Bournemouth, Hull and Leicester.

As an outsider looking in, what is your perception of Southampton this season?

I’ve been very surprised by the lack of form, Southampton always strike me as the very consistent top-ten sort of team. Like one of the Evertons of the Premier League, always doing well but struggling to reach that next level. You won’t get relegated, so the question I’d ask myself as a Saints fan is would I swap a top half finish for a cup final? Of course I would. Enjoy Wembley, there is nothing like it.

If you could take any Southampton player, who would it be and why?

That’s easy, Virgil van Djik. I’m convinced he is the best defender in the league, or at least one of them, and it still irks me to this day that Sunderland thought £10m was too much for the Dutchman when we courted him the year before he went to St Mary’s. Then we go and spend £8m on Papy Djilobodji instead, deary me.

Minus Jermain Defoe, who has been your player of the season?

With the exception of Defoe most of our players have had very inconsistent seasons. The only two exceptions to that are Jordan Pickford and Victor Anichebe. Because he is a local lad I’ll plump for Pickford and trust me this boy is going to be a top keeper very soon.

Do you believe that you have what it takes to beat the drop once again?

We’ve performed greater escapes than this so absolutely. If the last four seasons have taught me anything it’s never to write Sunderland off regardless of how crap we are.

And finally, what do you think the score will be this Saturday?

This is the kind of opportunity we usually spurn. Get into good form, play a team out of form and lose. However, I can’t shake the optimism that first half against Palace has filled me with so I think it’ll be a draw which won’t be much good for either of us.

Southampton 0-2 Chelsea: where did it all go wrong?

Defeat is always painful. Sometimes in football there are games when you can watch your side dominate in the most beautiful fashion, only for them to throw it all away in the 90th minute.  Then there are moments when you stand in the stadium and question how such a gutless performance can be considered acceptable, but as a fan of a side that hadn’t lost at home since last February, this is something that I’ve been fortunate to avoid. But as the final whistle blew in Southampton’s 2-0 defeat to Chelsea yesterday, I found myself placing the defeat entirely down to an Antonio Conte masterclass.

On the face of things, this game dropped right into the hands of both sides; Southampton favour a possession-based style of football under Claude Puel, whilst Conte’s Chelsea prefer to sit deep and remain compact. Unsurprisingly, both sides carried out these aspects of their games without a worry, but it was Southampton’s inability to cut open the Blue’s defence and Chelsea’s ruthless finishing in front of goal that made the difference. But how exactly did Southampton allow that to happen?

To anyone who has watched Southampton under the microscope this season, they will recognise just how important the fullbacks are in Claude Puel’s system. They are a driving force in build up play, the first outlet when switching the ball and are required to overlap in the final third.

They are there to constantly provide options to anyone on the ball and to place doubt into the mind of the opposition fullbacks. However, due to Puel’s decision not to start wingers and Conte’s incredibly well drilled 3421 formation, Southampton struggled to find joy in these wide areas.

The reason being is that when Southampton picked up the ball in these wide areas, Chelsea would double or sometimes even triple up on Southampton’s only out and out wide player – the fullback.

Conte would simply instruct either one of Victor Moses or Marcos Alonso to man mark the fullback, whilst the left or right-sided centre-back will look to spread wider and provide cover behind.

From here, Southampton have two choices. The first is that they can play the ball inside due to a lack of attacking options, but this will force them into the direction of midfield duo Nemanja Matic and Ngolo Kante – it doesn’t take a genius to work out that out of all the ways to breach the Chelsea defence, this isn’t the way to go. Pace, strength, energy and technique, this partnership has it all.  

The second option is for Southampton to lump the ball into a box that contains Thibaut Courtois, David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta. Once again, given the size, experience and sheer numbers in the box at this moment, this option should also be avoided. Without more than one natural wide player available at all times, Southampton only offer themselves these two ineffective options. 

Whilst this only explains how Southampton failed to score, it also helps to explain how Chelsea managed to grab both of their goals.

As Southampton no longer start wingers, the fullbacks have to take up very offensive starting positions. This is something that Conte wanted his side to encourage from Ryan Bertrand and Cuco Martina, with the idea that when his side recover the ball, they will instantly look to attack the open channels.

Given the quality of Hazard, Moses and Pedro in wide counter attacking situations, this proved to be a devastatingly effective game plan. So much so that even when Bertrand or Martina were able to drop back into their defensive positions in time, the entirety of the Southampton midfield wouldn’t be back in their defensive shape yet, giving Chelsea some inviting areas of space to drive into.

Coming into this game Conte looked at how his side could create the most dangerous attacks, not the most, and he executed it with absolute perfection. Seven shots on target from 13 attempts is an indication as to just how dangerous those attacks were.

Bertrand and Martina’s usual role in the Southampton side has huge physical demands, and this is something that Conte looked to take advantage of. With his counter-attacking focus to the game, Conte forced the Southampton fullbacks to make numerous 60+ yard sprints back to their box, giving Chelsea’s wide men the advantage of running at some lazy-legged defenders in the later stages of the game. Perhaps that explains Martina’s comical attempt of blocking Diego Costa’s fine curling strike?

In recent weeks Southampton have played with such remarkable understanding in their system, and in truth, plenty of that understanding was still on show yesterday. The only difference however is that Chelsea Football Club, one of the League’s strongest outfits, has Antonio Conte at the helm – a man who is currently squeezing every last drop of talent out of all the players at his disposal.

Fancy Southampton to get back to winning ways this Sunday against Hull City? Then check out  Tips Daddy for the best advice on value bets.

A fans view: Koeman to Everton

Just as we thought this summer would be ‘different’, Southampton’s beloved Ronald Koeman is on the verge of reportedly joining Everton Football Club. As you read this, the clubs are currently in discussion as they look to agree a compensation fee for the transfer of the Dutchman.

I don’t know about you Saints fans, but what’s hit me the most about this latest Southampton saga, is the fact it’s all come out of nowhere. Just last week, It looked set in stone that Koeman would stay on the south coast. Only a couple of months ago, Koeman was asked at the Solent Fans’ forum what it would take for him to stay at Southampton beyond his current deal (2017), to, which he replied: ‘Be happy as I am now’. A lot of people were under the impression that our manager would return from his recent family holiday in St Bart’s, and then proceed to put pen to paper on an extension at St Mary’s. And why wouldn’t he? He’s guided the club to their highest ever Premier League finish, secured European football and even played a part in Van Dijk, Forster and Ward-Prowse committing their long-term futures! If that’s not an attractive club to manage, then I don’t know what is.

So what changed? If we rewind a couple of weeks, Ronald gave an interview to Adam Blackmore about the Ambition of Southampton Football Club. “It’s one thing speaking about ambition and the second is to show it,” Koeman told BBC Radio Solent. In fact, throughout the course of the season, Koeman indirectly passed comments about the club’s ambition and warned the board of the dangers associated with selling your best players.

With this in mind, the time scale of the turnaround between Koeman returning from holiday, being offered a contract and rumours emerging of him talking with Everton, would indicate to me that Southampton have failed to showcase enough ambition to persuade Ronald to stay.

It is my understanding that a formal offer was made to Wasserman (Koeman’s agent) from Saints on Friday afternoon. That means it had only been three days before Dutch reporter Tim De Wit reported that Everton had made an approach to Koeman’s representatives. If you break that down, that’s an incredibly quick turnaround for Koeman and his representatives to look at the contract, disagree with it, and turn to Everton. There must have been a drastic split of opinion on the club’s vision, philosophies or finance to even start the ball rolling on the Everton job. A slight disagreement would have most likely seen a counter offer by Koeman’s agent to Saints. However, this complete U-turn towards a Merseyside move would suggest there has been a major disagreement between Koeman and the board.

However, does this rebuff of a new contract and move away from Southampton all boil down to ambition? I don’t think so. Considering Koeman has been involved in several meetings at board level throughout the latter part of the season about club’s future and 5-year plan, it would indicate that this scenario isn’t entirely about ambition. If there were such a contrast in opinions between Ronald and the board about levels of ambition, Reed wouldn’t have sanctioned an interview to the club’s internal media stating that lawyers and agents were now involved in negotiations as talks were being finalised.
If the latest reports are accurate that Everton’s new owner Farhad Moshir is set to offer Koeman a lucrative £6m contract as well as a £100m+ transfer kitty, it would seem the issue lies with finance. While as a Saints fan, you would hope that Koeman would see out his contract and be a man of his word, you can understand how his head may have been turned by that sensational sum of money. How many of you would turn down a potential employer prepared to triple your wages for you to do the same job? Not many of you!

As a Saints fan, we all like to point the finger and voice our opinions on whose fault this is. Do we feel disappointed in Koeman who has arguably snubbed Saints for a club struggling with the demands of Premier League football? Or do we feel anger towards the board that for the third season in a row, we have yet again lost players and coaching staff to league rivals? In my opinion, I feel a bit of both. But before we take a look at the board, let’s put this ‘bigger club argument’ to bed. Historically, Everton is a bigger club than us. However, we are a better club than them. Last season’s campaign and league table shows just that.

With this in mind, you have to take a long hard look at the board. How can the club propose a five-year plan, when we can’t keep hold of our managers or best players? I have no doubt that we support an incredible club who boasts an outstanding youth set up, scouting network and innovative forward way of thinking. However, as a club trying to break the ‘glass ceiling’ on the top four, there’s no way we can grow with this continual upheaval year after year on and off the field. There is only so many times that you can lose your best players and managers before it catches up with you.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. If talks between Southampton and Everton advance and the club agree for Koeman to terminate his contract, there will be a whole host of managers wanting to take charge at the club. With European football sealed, many talented first team players and state of the art facilities, there is no questioning whether we have the ability to attract a manager of top pedigree to the South Coast. With that, you can consider the fact that Southampton Football Club is in a handsome financial state and our billionaire owner has a proven record of supporting previous managers with funds – Southampton sure is an attractive proposition to any manager seeking European Football and the chance to upset the Premier League’s apple cart.

Having seen the likes of Mauricio Pochettino, Adam Lallana and Morgan Schneiderlin (just to name a few) leave the club in the last few years, you would think it would make all of this easier? Well, you would be wrong. It’s still incredibly hard to watch our budding team with so much potential be ripped apart each and every summer. And If Koeman is to depart, I suggest you strap yourself in and prepare for yet another summer of papers and online sources saying ‘mass exodus’ and ‘meltdown’ in the same breath as our club. Let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be a normal summer as a Southampton fan if it was quiet, would it?

Preview: We talk Southampton vs Newcastle with NUFC360

Coming into this weekend’s clash, Southampton have won five of their last seven Premier League home games and they will be facing a Newcastle side, that have lost their last eight away games in the Premier League. With Southampton in eighth place and Newcastle now seven points adrift of safety, all statistics point in the direction of a routine home win. However, this is the Premier League and no game is a given.

We spoke with NUFC360 to find out more about our opposition, the perception of Southampton and Georginio Wijnaldum – a favourite of Ronald Koeman.

In three words, how would you describe your season so far?

No lessons learnt

Who is your player of the year?

It’s a toss-up between Rob Elliot & Chancel Mbemba, but I think Elliot just about edges it. He hadn’t covered himself in glory prior to Tim Krul’s season ending injury & plenty of fans had reservations about his capabilities, but he’s been absolutely superb. At times, he has single handedly won us games & stopped the opposition from hitting double figures. Without him, I fear we’d be in a similar position to Villa.

Despite results going against you, has Rafa Benitez added a new look to Newcastle?

The side certainly looks more organised, but the players at his disposal just aren’t good enough. We look more of a threat in the final third & in the last two games, we’ve finally started providing Mitrovic with the service he’s needed all season. He’s capable of changing a game with substitutions too, something our previous managers have struggled with. I do fear it’s too little too late, though, he should have been brought in after the 5-1 defeat at Chelsea.

If you could change one thing about your club, what would it be?

One thing!? Now that’s a tough one. There’s too much wrong with Newcastle at the moment & the club is rotten from the top to the bottom. Rafa’s arrival & the head coach model being scrapped was a real positive for fans, but if/when we go down & he leaves, it’s going to be one step forward and five steps back. Lee Charnley, the man responsible for appointing John Carver & Steve McClaren, really needs to go. He’s completely out of his depth & his ineptitude looks like it’s going to cost us our Premier League status.

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman is an admirer of Georginio Wijnaldum, if the unthinkable happened and Newcastle were to be relegated, do you think he would suit Southampton and could it happen?

Wijnaldum is a good footballer, there’s no doubt about that, & I think in a good football playing side like Southampton, he could be a hit. Unfortunately however, his form has nose-dived dramatically over the second half of the season & he goes missing away from home. He will certainly leave if we’re relegated, he’s far too good for the Championship. Spurs are rumoured to be monitoring his situation so Koeman might have to move quickly in the summer.

What is your perception of Southampton Football Club?

I like Southampton. They’re a good club, with good fans, who play good football. A proper club. I think Koeman’s done a stellar job again this season & I’m a big fan of the way he gives young players a chance. I think he’s amongst the best managers in the league.

Who from this Southampton side scares you most?

I’d probably say, Pelle, as he seems to reek havoc every time we play Southampton. He’s commanding in the air & we don’t seem capable of dealing with that. Charlie Austin, a player we courted for a long time, worries me too. It seems destined that he will put a nail in our coffin on Saturday to rub salt into the wounds.

If you were reporting back to Ronald Koeman on how to beat Newcastle, what would you say?

Target our full backs. Daryl Janmaat has been pitiful defensively this season & any one of Steven Taylor or Fabricio Coloccini, will struggle to deal with pace or a physical presence. We’ve conceded 58 goals this season, only four less than Villa, which is a pretty shocking statistic.

What is your prediction for Saturday’s game?

2-0 Southampton. We’ve been thrashed on our last few trips to St. Marys and I can see a repeat on Saturday. There’s been a lot of talk about the side tightening up & winning ugly in the week, so we may look to stay compact & organised as we did against Leicester, but ultimately I think your firepower will overwhelm our frail defence.

And finally, the harsh reality of Premier League survival. Will you? won’t you? And why?

We’re six points behind Norwich now & with seven games remaining, that’s a huge gap to breach. I fear the worst & have for a long time. We just aren’t good enough at either end of the pitch & with only 6 wins all season I can’t see how we’re going to turn it round now.

 

Premier League Podcast Preview Show: Southampton vs Liverpool

I was fortunate enough to join Hari Sethi and John Ritchie on the AnfieldIndex Podcast show to preview this weekend’s fixture against Liverpool. We look ahead to Southampton’s upcoming game and discuss everything you could possibly want from a preview show – including an opening question at Arry’s new role at Derby County.

Follow the link here to give it a listen

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We discuss…

Who would ‘Arry Redknapp scout for Derby County?

What can we expect from this weekend’s game?

Can Liverpool record four League wins on the bounce?

Who have been Southampton’s standout players this season?

How have Southampton managed to recover so well following a tough season with injuries?

We also round up the show with our predictions for this weekend – we hope you enjoy the show.

Be sure to let us know what you think over at FreshSaints and AnfieldIndex

 

Match Preview: Six clean sheets in a row?

Southampton have taken 13 points from their last five fixtures. During that time, they have kept five clean sheets in a row; totalling 509 minutes since a red and white shirt had to pick the ball out the back of the net. Better yet, Southampton face a goal-shy Swansea side this Saturday that will be fearful of the challenge that Manchester United and Arsenal failed to overcome. Could yet another clean sheet and three points be on the cards?

All was going so swimmingly for Swansea. After Francesco Guidolin took hold of the club alongside Alan Curtis, the impact was instant. Swansea recorded back-to-back wins for the first time this Premier League season and fans were confident in avoiding the drop. Since then, Swansea have been held to draws by a blunt Crystal Palace side in free fall and a West Bromwich Albion team that is tearing at the seams. Both the Eagles and the Baggies came into the game with poor form, making it plausible to suggest that Swansea have just thrown away their relegation-get-out card.

Worst of all, they are set face a ruthless, clinical and robust Southampton side that are in their best form of the season so far.

Who have Southampton got to watch out for?

Gylfi Sigurdsson –  The Icelandic international has been in fantastic goal scoring form as of late, with five goals in his last six appearances. Having scored in each of Guidolin’s first three games in charge, the Italian said “I think Gylfi could score 15 goals in a season because he has quality and he has intelligence.”

It’s clear to see that Sigurdsson is Swansea’s most potent attacking outlet.

Over recent weeks, Southampton’s defence has been tight, organised and compact, with little room for the opposition to force an opening. As a result of this game plan, teams have been forced into crossing and striking from distance. However, with the common known knowledge of Sigurdsson’s ability to strike a ball from distance, Koeman will have a tough call to make.

Alberto Paloschi – The 26 year old Italian is somewhat unknown to the common football fan, but his lively style of play has been clear to see so far. Paloschi stands at just five-foot-nine-inches, flourishes with the ball at his feet and will look to be a handfull by finding space in the channels between both centre backs. Southampton have been used to dominating at the back through aerial duels, but this battle will take place on the ground. After all, it’s Swansea City.

Who can shine for the Saints?

Oriol Romeu – Romeu has put in a succession of impressive performances this season, yet he just can’t nail down that first team spot. With Victor Wanyama now suspended for five games after receiving his third red card of the season, there is a gap to fill. A gap that the Spaniard will want to make his. Romeu will not only see this as his time to push Southampton into Europe, but also his time to show Koeman why he needs to be the main man next season. Go get em Rom.

Charlie Austin – Since joining in January, Austin has so far been available for selection in only two games – starting from the bench on both occasions. Having brushed off his injury that left him out of the side at the Emirates and now being more aware of his role in the team, Austin will be raring to go. Even more so when Swansea’s defending still leaves much to be desired. If Austin starts, then you can bank on a ball falling handsomely in the box for him.

Swansea City Form – 2-4 loss vs Sunderland (A) 1-0 win vs Watford (H) 1-2 win vs Everton (A) 1-1 vs WBA (A) 1-1 vs Palace (H)

  • Seven goals scored over these five games
  • Seven goals conceded over these five games
  • In Swansea’s last fixture they drew against the worst form team in the League – Crystal Palace
  • Swansea lost and conceded four to 19th place Sunderland
  • Sigurdsson (5), Ayew (2) and Williams were the scorers over these five games

Southampton Form – 2-0 win vs Watford (H) 3-0 win vs WBA (H) 0-1 win vs Manchester Utd (A) 0-0 vs Arsenal (A) 1-0 win vs West Ham (H)

  • Seven goals scored over these five games
  • Five clean sheets in five games
  • Southampton beat fifth place Manchester United and beat sixth place West Ham
  • Southampton drew against third place Arsenal
  • Tadic (2), Ward-Prowse (2), Long, Austin and Yoshida were the scorers over these five games

Prediction: Austin and Van Dijk to gift Southampton a 2-0 away win

Who do you think will leave the Liberty Stadium with all three points? Perhaps a share of the spoils?

Let us know on twitter @freshsaints

 

Fraser Forster: Facts, stats and stopping attacks

It’s been widely documented how Fraser Forster’s return of form has been the true beginning of Southampton’s season. Having struggled to combine their usual fluent attacking play with strong defensive performances over the first 20 fixtures, Forster came back into the side with the Saints sitting in 13th place. Fast forward five games and Southampton are now in contention for European Football, scoring freely and have leapfrogged Liverpool for 7th place.

But, just how good has he been?

“He’s so quiet but he gives a lot of confidence to defenders. It’s not a coincidence that when he comes back we start keeping clean sheets.” said Ronald Koeman on the goalkeeper that he calls “Magic”. Koeman is right, and the statistics are there to prove just that.

Since Forster put the gloves back on, he’s seen the opposition line up 62 shots. That includes 15 placed on target, which reflects Forster’s shot stopping ability. Whilst also including 47 shots off target, which tells us the low probability shots that the defence is forcing the opposition to make.

Forster has placed confidence in the defence, which allows the back line to hold a strong, yet high-risk position on the field. By Forster allowing the defence to play further up the pitch, thus pushing the opposition deep into their own half, it’s not just the defence that has reaped the benefits of Forster’s presence.

In turn, he can also authorise the defence to drop deep and carry out a “backs against the wall” performance with confidence and desire, rather than fear. As shown in the closing stages against Arsenal (A) and most recently, against Slaven Bilic’s West Ham (H).

To take risks, you need to be confident. To win, you need to take risks. And judging by Southampton’s poor early season form, It seems fair to suggest that Marteen Stekelenburg places lower levels of confidence in the defence than Forster.

It’s been 479 minutes of Premier League football since the six-foot-seven-inch monster returned and not once has he had to pick the ball out from the back of the net.

Not to mention that after Southampton’s 1-0 home win over West Ham, Fraser Forster’s clean sheet percentage is the best of any goalkeeper with 30 or more Premier League appearances. That’s 18 clean sheets from his 35 games (51.4%).

Forster has been the catalyst to Southampton’s incredible form and such feats can never be a coincidence in a League as competitive as the Premier League. Watch out Joe Hart, the Euros are coming and Forster certainly wants a taste of the action.