After nine months out of action this summer’s European Championships may have seemed a distant dream for Fraser Forster. However five clean sheets in his first five games back have seen him demonstrate why he was being talked about as a real challenger to Joe Hart.
Southampton hadn’t looked particularly weak defensively so far this season, aside from the early 3-0 defeat to Everton and a hefty 6-1 loss against Liverpool in the Capital One Cup, however the return of Forster has seen a more confident back line.
The Englishman had very little to do in his first three games back, but a sensational performance to almost single-handedly hold Arsenal to a goalless draw drew the media spotlight. Forster denied Arsenal time and time again, making ten saves as he kept a fourth clean sheet. His latest performance in the 1-0 against West Ham saw him become the first Southampton goalkeeper in 15 years to keep five consecutive clean sheets.
What makes this record even more remarkable is that Forster has made almost half as many saves (14) in his five games as his stand-in, Maarten Stekelenburg, made in 17 matches (30 saves). Forster’s record of not conceding in five also reflects favourably compared to the Dutchman, who conceded 19 goals in his 17 league games, and managed just once to keep three consecutive clean sheets.
Many have called, myself included, for Jack Butland to be rewarded for his excellent form this season with international recognition, and the addition of Forster to this mix can only be a good thing for the national side. As well as being in a rich vein of form this season, Forster looked an almost certainty to pick up the ‘Golden Glove’ award last season before his injury, accumulating 13 clean sheets. He also has the bonus of having European experience from his time at Celtic, with his performance in the 2-1 win against Barcelona seeing him nicknamed ‘The Great Wall’ in the Spanish media. This could prove vital should Joe Hart suffer an injury or a drop in form, especially if Roy Hodgson is not comfortable throwing in the younger Butland.