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Southampton FC 2020/21 Season Review - The Goalkeepers
Wednesday, 26th May 2021 10:01

We start the post mortem of Saints 2020/21 season with a look at the goalkeeping position, what were the good and bad points and what should Saints do next in a position where we have four on the books but none that have truly made the position their own.

We start the review with the forgotten man of the goalkeeping department, but who did make an appearance or two on the bench this season when Saints were so short of bodies they put two keepers on there.

Harry Lewis career seems to have stalled, four years ago he made three appearances in the FA Cup back in January 2017 and still aged only 19 he looked a potential prospect for the future.

The following season he went on loan to Dundee Utd in the Scottish Championship and played a big part as they reached the play offs , but they fell short at the final hurdle.

Since then he has just sat in the squad at St Mary's seemingly stagnating and it appears that he too is one who has been stuck on a well paid contract that has meant that he cannot afford financially to leave and has had to stick it out.

However he is out of contract this summer and highly unlikely to be offered an extension and at 23 will be able to seek a new club.

Good luck to Harry, he didn't let us down in the 3 FA Cup games he played for the club, he just hasn't been able to make the leap forward, I truly hope he finds a decent league club and has a successful career in football.

Next is another forgotten man Angus Gunn, when he arrived from Manchester City in the summer of 2018 for £10 million there was a real hope that we had found a talented player, the previous season he had played every game on loan at Norwich City and had been a real success, prompting Saints interest.

He started his first season as back up to Alex McCarthy and in the EFL he looked good against three Premier League teams and with McCarthy falling out of form he made his Premier League debut away to Chelsea on January 2nd 2019 in a 0-0 draw, McCarthy made a brief return but was still out of sorts Gunn then kept his place for the remainder of the season and looked the part.

But in 2019/20 he found himself playing behind a defence in disarray and after the 9-0 against Leicester he was dropped , he would play 3 more games in the FA Cup and looked ok but Ralph seemed to have lost faith in him.

This season he has been at Stoke where he has done well, but injury has limited his appearances, there seems to have been an agreement to loan him again to the Potters, but another rumour abounds that Norwich want him to return to Carrow Road on a permanent deal.

Still only 25 his problem at St Mary's has been he was thrown in to the deep end behind an erratic defence, I still think he could have a future in the game, perhaps a loan move to Norwich might enable him to get the experience he needs to play behind an erratic defence and pull it into shape.

Under contract until 2023 Saints may prefer to cut their losses and get him off the books for around £3-5 million.

So to the two keepers that have played in the first team this season.

Alex McCarthy has played the bulk of the games, but he has never truly been convincing, I think Alex's problem is that during a long career spanning 13 years and 10 clubs he has never truly made the number 1 position his own, the fact that in that time and now approaching 32 he has amassed just 245 League starts with around a quarter of those coming in this and last season tells a story of a keeper who is capable of some good displays, but lacks the concentration and application needed by a keeper to keep a high standard up week in week out

In the second half of the season he has not been good and would have played less than the 30 games he did manage but for Ralph Hasenhuttl's strange rotation policy, in the last three appearances of the season he has been poor, shipping 6 goals and on all of them he really should have done better, I think he only made a real attempt at 1 of them , not even throwing himself at the other 5, his reactions are shot, his decision making was shot and the rotation system did him no good at all.

His ratio of goals conceded per game was 1.9, an appalling , his save percentage of 61% of shots saved was the worst in the Premier League.

Fraser Forster looked to be just there to warm the bench, but with McCarthy far from convincing even when we were winning he came in for the game against Liverpool and although slightly shaky at first kept a clean sheet but seemed to bring a stability to the defence, they seemed to know what Forster would and wouldn't do in a situation, his shots saved percentage was 68% which was in line with most of the keepers in the Premier with 70% seemingly the benchmark.

So although he played only 8 Premier League games, Fraser Forster was clearly the better keeper and if he had played more games then we might have pulled off a few more results.

So what should Saints do, Ralph Hasenhuttl has said that both keepers are going to be here next season and vie for the number 1 spot, that does not completely fill me with confidence, although I would say Forster is proven and looks the better bet.

But I would also say that is what Ralph Hasenhuttl has to say now, you don't wipe out a goalkeepers confidence by saying you are going to get rid of them.

Both are out of contract next summer so the question is whether we deal with that problem now, Forster probably won't leave to take a cut in pay and go elsewhere permanently will cost him something like £2 million, he will see it out or perhaps have one last loan move.

Saints will probably be considering options, the first is getting rid of one of them permanently and from that point of view that means McCarthy, he will still have a small value and it would free up wages for a replacement.

There are rumours though Saints are looking to extend his contract, but surely that is going to be as the back up, I have no problem with that, it is the role he has performed all his career bar two seasons, only in 2009/10 on loan at Yeovil in League One and again in 2013/14 in the Championship for Reading has he ever held the position for a full season.

This tells you something.

Ideally we would be looking to bring in a first choice keeper now, then move on either Forster or McCarthy and leave one as back up.

This will depend on what we can do in the transfer market, there will be a lot of wheeler dealing going on and with little money flying around at all football clubs at present, Ralph may feel that his priorities lie in other positions when spending cash.

So the likelihood is that next season Fraser & Alex fight it out for the number one spot, this is not ideal because defenders like to know what the keeper behind them will do, good sides are based on solid stoppers who command their area and marshal their defence, we lack that ans chopping and changing does no good.

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dirk_doone added 10:53 - May 26
McCarthy's save percentage of 61% of shots saved was the worst in the Premier League.

Our last six clean sheets, and our only ones in 2021, were all kept by Forster.

So, why on earth was McCarthy playing the last 3 games of our season and more worrying still, why is there talk of offering him a new contract?

If we can get rid of him this summer so that Ralph can't pick him any more, it will have been a highly successful transfer window, which should see us concede fewer goals and pick up more points next season.


halftimeorange added 11:21 - May 26
It seems to me that coaching at the club needs to be reviewed as much as the playing staff. Having McCarthy and Forster competing for a starting place is not good for two mature 'keepers. You can't tell me that our defence as a group doesn't know which one they trust the most to be between the sticks. But, back to coaching. Isn't it odd that Forster was exceptional in Scotland and Gunn, when fit, played well at Stoke? I believe that Ralph urgently needs a right-hand man skilled in the ways of the EPL and the assistant first-team coaching is too lightweight in terms of top-class playing experience. Too often the team looked like a bunch of individuals than a well-honed collective outfit, especially in defence, with dire marking and players constantly out of position. The sports science experts should be able to account for the number of injuries sustained in training, not just in matches. Better coaching breeds improved results and we do have some real talent on the pitch which doesn't regularly reveal itself.

codge added 12:49 - May 26
Can’t believe we are not entertaining the idea of getting shot of at least one or even both of these keepers as they don’t exactly instill confidence in the team as a whole. Also it doesn’t help them either having such a weak pair of central defenders in front of them.And as for the coaches we have enough goalkeeper ones to go round to several teams.
We seriously lack good coaching just look at the Under 23 18s so poor does not exactly instill a lot of confidence for the future.

WestSussexSaint added 13:33 - May 26
I don’t think you solve the goalkeeping issue in isolation. The lack of defence has played a large part in making both keepers look poor at times. One thing is sure the chopping and changing does neither keeper any good. I think McCarthy’s recent poor displays are in part due to the hit his confidence will have taken.

Ralph needs to make a decision and stick to it for the start of the season. My preference is Forster but as both are out of contract next season I can see a fresh start from 2022/23 with a brand new keeper and possibly one (McCarthy?) retained as back up.

SonicBoom added 13:49 - May 26
There is no getting away from the fact Ralph has managed this situation in a bizarre manner. Rather than sticking with a keeper he has chopped and changed, tried a weird rotation system then stuck with a player that is letting more goals in than anyone else.
Frankly it looks like hi and the goalkeeping team don't really know what they are doing.

dirk_doone added 14:39 - May 26
Obviously, Forster was outstanding for Celtic, which is why he's kept a total of nearly 200 career clean sheets but let's just compare like for like: Forster and McCarthy's stats for Premier League games only:

Forster played 115..... goals conceded 130.... clean sheets 40... ave per game 1.1 goals

MCCarthy played 130..... goals conceded 202.... clean sheets 25 ...ave per game 1.6 goals

That means that with McCarthy in goal we concede 0.5 goals per game than we do with Forster, which is 19 more per season. How many points has that cost us????

davidargyll added 14:42 - May 26
The back four and the goal keeper should always work in tandem. If the latter doesn’t have confidence in the former, it’s curtains, end of…
Teams keep goals out because their defence stops the opposition shooting, meaning that only exceptional shots have to be saved. I think both AM and FF have pulled off some excellent saves but have often been exposed by the players in front of them.
So fix our back four and we will improve.

dirk_doone added 15:07 - May 26
To be fair, Saints' Academy has produced outstanding defenders: three of them - Ben White, Tyrone Mings and Luke Shaw- are in the current England squad. The problem is we let all of them go when they were in their teens.

SaintPaulVW added 10:00 - May 27
If we assume Gunn is gone, then out of the 2 FF gets my vote. Both FF and AM seem like good guys, however Goalkeepers need a 'strong personality' to have plenty of 'frank discussions' with their defenders. Although they are both good technical keepers, I'm not sure either of ours have this strength of character. We desperately need a few shouters in our side.

Agree, sell one and get a replacement in.

SanMarco added 10:11 - May 27
The ideal is FF backup and a new first choice. Life and Saints transfers are rarely ideal so FF number one with new man number two. Either way 'thanks and goodbye' to McCarthy. Stats always need to be treated warily but I am not sure they are lying here. I have a gut feeling that FF would have saved at least some of the goals McCarthy conceded but I don't believe the opposite is true. FF is not ideal with a manager who likes the fannying round at the back approach and he can be slow to get down to shots heading towards the corner but he is the better option of the two. Giving McCarthy a new contract will be like giving JS a new contract was. Why???

ItchenNorth added 18:20 - May 28
We need to go out and buy a real number 1 keeper. Not gamble on an up and coming keeper. Go spread money on this position and two new full backs and the difference will be evident.

ElijahK added 19:04 - May 29
Sorry but everyone who’s comparing McCarthys stats to Forsters clearly didn’t watch/look at the defensive players they had in front of them when playing for a majority of time! As Forster for most of his PL career had the likes of Van Dijk and Fonte in front of him, and barely had anything to save whatsoever (although he certainly was better back then, than he is today), whilst McCarthys had a back 4 that’s conceded a ridiculous amount of goals over the last few seasons in front of him! Personally I don’t see much difference in their saving qualities, but McCarthy can actually hit it to our players, whilst Forster will be lucky to not hit it out for an opposition throw in! As I think we should keep one for the bench, but we certainly need a new number one as they’re both MILES OFF premier league quality

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