On the 13th of January 2016 the chant of “Fraser Forster, England’s number one” was being bellowed from all corners of St Mary’s stadium. Nearly one year on however, this chant has since been replaced by moans and murmurs, with Southampton fans understandably vocal over their worries of the big man.
This time last year Southampton had been forced into relying on the services of Maarten Stekelenburg, and upon Forster’s return from injury, Southampton went on to keep six consecutive clean sheets – an achievement that would prove to be a new club record.
Forster’s return to the starting XI was remarkable; not only was he was denying the opposition numerous clear cut chances, but he was also raising the game of his team mates through the confidence that he naturally installed into his defence. Subsequently, this saw Southampton pick up 15 points across these six clean sheets – a run of form that made up for just one win in their previous ten games.
But at this moment, that brave, acrobatic, and confidence spreading shot-stopper is nowhere to be seen. So much so that many fans are running out of patience and calling for a new man to stand between the sticks.
Over the course of this season, the England International has been a serious disappointment. Given the fine form that he showed following his return from Injury, fans would’ve no doubt been excited to see just what level Forster may reach in the forthcoming season – after all, player development has been placed into the DNA of Southampton Football Club in recent years.
Forster has always shown clear weaknesses to his game; this can not be argued. But in the past these errors have often been instantly recovered, wasted by the opposition, or redeemed later that game. It goes without saying that hopes of progression over this season have been squashed by Forster’s undeniable regression.
The same weaknesses from the past are being shown, only this season they are happening far more often and being punished at an expected rate – worryingly, Forster doesn’t appear to boast the confidence to correct them either.
More specifically, there are four standout weaknesses to Forster’s game in my eyes. There is his inability to sprint from his line in 1v1 situations, his woeful distribution, his indecisiveness and lack of bravery to claim crosses, and finally, there is also his lack of anticipation when placed in reoccurring situations.
It could be argued that all of which were on show in Southampton’s clash with Tottenham Hotspur last night; Why exactly is this happening though? competition.
In this very moment, Forster is undroppable, regardless of how badly he may perform.
He could launch the ball into his own net this coming Saturday and yet still, he will be placed into the starting XI the following week. Forster has become all too complacent, and who wouldn’t when a 36-year-old Stuart Taylor is your only competition.
He knows that the number one spot is his own, and whether he realises it or not, this has caused Forster to lose his risk-taking nature that allowed him to decide those game changing moments.
Goalkeepers need to take risks and act as if each shot that they are facing will be their last. Instead, Forster seems too scared to rush off his line or dare to think one step ahead of the striker at risk of being the one at fault.
During his first season with Southampton, Forster had the motivation of proving his quality at a new club. During his second season, Forster had the pressure of returning from injury with a point to prove and the chance of turning Southampton’s fortune. This season however, Alex McCarthy’s early season injury and Taylor lack of quality appears to have left Forster awfully complacent and in need of motivation.
It will be interesting to see whether the return of McCarthy sparks some new-found form out of Forster.
There is no point in beating around the bush, it’s clear for anyone to see that Forster has been well below his expected standard this year, and even the statistics are there to back it up too.
Over the course of the season so far, Forster has faced 53 shots on target, recording a save to goal ratio of 1.3. This is poor when compared to his 2.76 average over the 2015/16 season.
Despite this drastic decrease however, Southampton have managed to record an average of 1.11 goals conceded per 90 this season. This is just a small increase on the impressive 0.94 figure of last season.
These statistics speak volumes of just how impressive Claude Puel’s defensive organisation is, but also just how much Forster is letting down the side. Behind any team that wishes to taste success, a fine goalkeeper is always in order.
There will be times when your side go one goal to the good and for the remainder of the game, your play just isn’t up to your usual standard and you need to cling on – its in these moments that your goalkeeper must step up, and at the minute, Forster simply isn’t doing that.
Over the course of this season Forster has had numerous opportunities to save all three points or even rescue a result for Southampton, but he’s failed to do so.
Now by no means am I saying that I expect him to be the difference in each tight margin of every negative result, but what I am saying is that I want to see the return of the 6ft 7inch man mountain who revels in such moments, not shy’s away from them.