Big Chance For Fraser Forster This Week
Tuesday, 9th Feb 2021 12:39
If Ralph Hasenhuttl sticks to his statement that Fraser Forster would be his FA Cup goalkeeper, then the big stopper has an important moment in his season coming up against Wolves, with Alex McCarthy in a run of bad form he could wrest the number one spot from him.
Alex McCarthy has been out of sorts of late, it hasn't just been the number of goals that have been conceded, 12 in the last two Premier League games is not a great total for any keeper, even though there were issues beyond the control of McCarthy himself.
McCarthy's performances haven't been instilling confidence in his back four, Manchester United had only 14 shots on target, 9 of them went in, Newcastle had only 4 and in the 3-1 defeat to Arsenal the Gunners managed only 5 attempts on target.
At the moment it seems like everything that is on target goes in, I am not going to totally blame McCarthy for this, it has been a patched up defence, but this is a time when you need your goalkeeper to stand up and be strong and he hasn't done that.
His performance in any of those games was just not up to the standard required and questions about his kicking have again been called into question.
In hasn't just been the last few weeks, it's been there for a while, he just seems to be getting his angles wrong, two goals conceded in similar fashion at the near post for example.
But the worrying issue has been his decision making, against Newcastle it was the dying moments first half injury time, we weren't going to build from the back, sometimes you have to just whack the ball and he seems to be struggling with that.
To often he doesn't seem to have made his mind up straight away after the ball is passed back, he wants too long to make the decision and gets closed down, on Saturday he should have just walloped it but he was indecisive and got closed down meaning he gave Ryan Bertrand a suicide ball and instead of going in a goal behind, the task was made much harder in the second half.
So if Fraser Forster plays against Wolves it is a big moment in his season, he has the chance to gain back his first team place on a permanent basis at St Mary's for the first time since being dropped for McCarthy after a defeat to Spurs at Wembley at Xmas 2017.
Forster has played three games this season and kept three clean sheets, OK one of those was against Shrewsbury, but Liverpool and Arsenal were tough tests, the defence looked ore comfortable with him in goal, yes he was a little rusty, but the truth was the defence knew what he was going to do in any given situation, whether they had to defend a ball or whether he would deal with it.
Good goalkeepers do not dither, they know what they are going to do in any given situation and more importantly the players in front of that know too.
A good performance against Wolves in the cup will surely see him keep his place for the Premier League encounter at the weekend, if only for the fact that McCarthy has been so poor of late.
Going forward to next season though Saints have to find a new keeper, with his contract up I would be surprised if Forster stayed at St Mary's, Alex McCarthy has spent most of his career as a back up keeper, the last 15 months or so he has spent as number 1 at St Mary's has been his longest spell as an undisputed first choice in his career.
I feel that with McCarthy it is a concentration thing, a good keeper has to be able to focus and concentrate for the entire game even when the ball is up the other end of the pitch, some keeper have it, some don't, McCarthy's career stats suggest that he just doesn't have that trait needed to be a permanent first choice keeper.
Angus Gunn is on loan at Stoke City and after a time out with injury playing again, but is he the answer ? I'm not sure about that myself, although I do feel with some more experience under his belt and confidence restored he would be a better option than either of the two we have played this season.
But I think in the long term we need to bring in a new custodian between the sticks, although at this moment in time I am hard pressed to think who that could be.
In the meantime, Forster was outstanding at Celtic last season, Ok most of his games were not against great teams, but he showed he had the concentration in those games and when the big games came, whether against Rangers or in Europe he stepped up to the plate.
If Forster plays well against Wolves it may lead to a final swansong in the Saints goal for the rest of the season, that would be great because he deserves to be remembered with affection by the Saints supporters, not just for any performances he may turn in during the rest of this season, but for the time in his first years at the club where he played a big part in our top 8 finishes as well as a major cup final.
Photo: Action Images
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