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Alex McCarthy Or Fraser Forster Is Becoming A Nice Problem To Have For Ralph
Monday, 25th Jan 2021 12:36

Alex McCarthy looks likely to return for Southampton when they play Arsenal at St Mary's for the second time in four days on Tuesday evening, but after another clean sheet for Fraser Forster Ralph Hasenhuttl has a nice problem on his hands.

Ironically at a time when Ralph Hasenhuttl is struggling for cover in some positions, he has now found that in goal he has the choice of two goalkeepers capped by England whilst at the club.

Alex McCarthy has been number one choice this season and had played every game up until the start of January when he was forced to self isolate after catching Covid 19.

In stepped Fraser Forster for the game against Liverpool and the big keeper put in a good performance to keep a clean sheet in a backs to the wall victory, McCarthy returned for the trip to Leicester City, but with two FA Cup ties in the space of a few days it was Forster who played in both of them and seemed to be getting his confidence back after that solid Liverpool run out, again keeping a clean sheet.

At the moment Ralph has made it clear who is the number one saying :

“Forster deserves now to be our cup goalkeeper now, I think. He has helped us through to the next round and he has another clean sheet too – he is doing a fantastic job.

“We have two really good goalkeepers so there is no reason why I shouldn’t trust him again.

“The goalkeepers are getting better and better. They’re coming along really strongly and the praise goes to my goalkeeper coach and the good work that he does.”

So it is expected that Alex McCarthy will step back between the sticks for the visit of Arsenal in the League on Tuesday night and indeed is likely to hold that position going forward in the Premier League with Forster being benched until the home game against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup provisionally on Saturday 13th February.

But McCarthy will now have to be on his game for the three games in between and for the first time in 15 months since he took over from Alex Gunn he has serious competition for his place.

Forster has kept three straight clean sheets and although one of the was against League One Shrewsbury, the other two have been against two tough teams in Champions Liverpool and in form Arsenal.

There will be those who are uncharitable who will say that he didn't have a lot to do in either of those games, but the fact is what he did have to do he did well and his confidence seems to be rising.

Indeed sometimes for a keeper it is not always about the saves you make, but the way you go about things, yes neither Arsenal or Liverpool had many shots on target for him to save , but it could also be said the defence looked a lot more comfortable with him behind them, they seemed to know what balls he would come and collect and those he wouldn't and that meant they knew what they needed to deal with and what they didn't.

That sounds an obvious thing to say, but the best keepers are not always the best all rounders, Antti Niemi was a great shot stopper but not great on coming for crosses beyond his six yard box, but our defenders knew that and got the job done.

That was the case on Saturday against the Gunners, Forster did not come off his line for crosses much, but he was big and strong behind his defence.

At this moment in time no one is saying that Alex McCarthy should be dropped, but for 15 months he has almost been undroppable due to there being no effective back up with first Angus Gunn and then Fraser Forster being suspect due to low confidence.

Now Forster is back after a great year at Celtic and ready to step in if McCarthy doesn't play to the highest standards, that has to be good for the team and hopefully he will push the current number one all the way and up both their games .

Photo: Action Images

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TimSaint added 12:51 - Jan 25
As you say, a nice problem to have.
FF has certainly looked better and better after each performance and even his kicking has 'kicked on' and improved since his 1st game back.

I did hear rumours that Celtic would be back in to buy him in the summer, but not sure that they could afford him in this form, or his wages for that matter. Anyone know how long he has left on his contract ? Got to still be a couple of years hasn't it ?

SanMarco added 12:51 - Jan 25
I go with my gut reaction while watching games - I feel slightly more anxious with FF in goal than with AM. I think this is something to do with agility, AM moves better + nowadays with all this play from the back stuff I feel that although AM is often pretty scary I feel FF is worse. Into row Z at the half way line every time he gets a back pass would be fine with me (and him too I expect!)

SaintPaulVW added 13:11 - Jan 25
If Forster is over the jitters then he's a great player to have available. Both he an McCarthy can push each other on and having a great back up will give the team extra confidence. Agreed that McCarthy looks more comfortable as a modern day 'Keeper sweeper' but he has taken a while to get there.

I think it's a great bit of man management for Ralph to say that the Jersey is his for duration of the FA cup. Gives him a clear role.

WestSussexSaint added 13:21 - Jan 25
Good article and I agree with the points raised. In these times when squads are being stretched by COVID and injuries, having two quality keepers is as important as any other position. McCarthy is the more rounded keeper right now having had longer to get used to the way RH wants his team to play. I hope FF continues to get a good run in the cup.

I also agree with SaintPaul that two players in form for one place will push each other to maintain their performance levels - just look at examples of supposed top keepers who don’t have a decent back up to challenge their status and get sloppy as a result. Pickford and DeGea last season spring to mind.

Monksway added 16:27 - Jan 25
Whilst there might not be much to choose in terms of goalkeeping, McCarthy is really important setting things moving from the back. This is the same as JV whose passing has really been missed even though JS has done well defensively.

underweststand added 16:56 - Jan 25
It's important for a goalie to show confidence in his area, and have good contact with his defence. In previous seasons Forster was often indecisive and it showed - likewise Alex McCarthy showed a uncertainty in his early days - whether to come or stay - but this has been Alex' best season so far, and now Forster is showing up well with 3 clean sheets.

I was saddened recently to read of the death of former keeper Campbell Forsyth who was a giant in our 1965-66 season. He would not abide full backs " cluttering up his penalty area" and often bellowed at them to get upfield - in not so polite language.
His confidence radiated throughout the team, (as did Shilton and Niemi in much later generations). It matters little if a keeper makes 1 save or 6 in a game - as long as he's there to DAJFU - when needed.

For the first time in ages, I feel no apprehension whichever of them is chosen, which is good for the team, and also creates good competition for the jersey.


AirFlorida added 17:39 - Jan 25
I'd be inclined to play him again against Arsenal, again. He'll know what to expect from them even if they bring back a couple of better players. I've always been a big fan of the big man. We have two very good Prem keepers, both have different styles/qualities. Alex is Ralph's number one because he gets involved with the play and is more comfortable with the ball at his feet, he also comes for crosses which allows him to release it quicker or slow down play - providing he's not flapped at it and we've conceded! FF lacks in these areas, he stays on his line more, fills the goal with his big frame and relies more on his reflexes and size. Against teams where our backs are likely to be against the wall I'd go for FF. He safer, won't flap at crosses in the dieing mins, he'll stay in his 6yrd box and make it his fortresses. But Alex has played well. Dunno. I'm torn now. Not my decision anyway, thank god 😅

halftimeorange added 19:30 - Jan 25
If the coach can persuade either Alex or Fraser to get rid of the ball quickly when it's at their feet I don't personally care which one plays, based on the last few games. As for a keeper making the defence know that they were mere ornaments to be knocked off their perches if they were in his way, I'd go for Tim Flowers. I could hear him swearing at the back four or five from the other end of the ground - and that was when the crowd was allowed in!

dirk_doone added 16:58 - Jan 27
AirFlorida's post was spot on.

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