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Safe Signs for Southampton

A player coming back from injury, or from a long period out can prove to be a lift in more than just one aspect for a team. Even more so with a player who starts regularly for a side, his return can instill the feeling of almost a new signing. A lift as such has been observed in Ronald Koeman’s Southampton side. A team who have been criticized so much for under-performing this season, and rightly so. But maybe, now that they have got that regularly starting player back after a full 10 months, they can push on and try to get back to the standards which they set last term.

Fraser Forster had been kept out through a horrific knee injury since March 2015, and just made his first appearance back in the starting team a few weeks ago. For the time when he was away, Maarten Stekelenburg had been filling in his boots between the sticks. And it is starting to look like he didn’t (I don’t think anybody expected him to) quite live up to the level of goalkeeping which had been set by Forster.

When Stekelenburg has been in goal, the Saints have leaked 24 goals from an expected goal (expected goals (xG) is a probability model which measures how many goals a team would score from a given number of shots) sum of 22.32. Over this time, they dropped 36 points. That’s an average of 1 point dropped for every 0.62 expected goals against them – a remarkably poor ratio. Let’s compare this to what has happened since the return of Fraser Forster. They have kept four straight clean sheets, and have summed 3.1 expected goals against; whilst dropping only two points. Now, this indicates that they have averaged 1 point dropped for every 1.55 expected goals against them – which is a lot better than the record which was kept before the return of Forster.

Points Dropped xG Against xG/point dropped
M. Stekelenburg 36 22.32 0.62
F. Forster 2 3.1 1.55

 

What that translates to is that when Fraser Forster is playing, in order for them to lose 1 point they will have to be faced with a greater number of shots as opposed to when he is not playing (because more shots = higher xG sum). This also means that Forster is saving more shots per 90 minutes than Stekelenburg was before his return… or that the team just generally stops/blocks more shots when Forster is playing.

X - games Forster did not play [http://www.squawka.com/players/fraser-forster/stats#performance-score#southampton-(current)#english-barclays-premier-league#8#season-2015/2016#165#all-matches#1-24#by-match]
Green – wins Red – losses Orange – draws X – games Forster did not play
[http://www.squawka.com/players/fraser-forster/stats#performance-score#southampton-(current)#english-barclays-premier-league#8#season-2015/2016#165#all-matches#1-24#by-match]
Now obviously, these numbers are not completely sustainable. Although Forster has got 4 clean sheets in the 4 games which he has played so far, it does not guarantee that he will go on and never concede again. It should be kept in mind that Forster has only played 4 games, and that Stekelenburg has played 20, so the conclusions cannot and should not be taken too seriously until Forster has played the same number of games and is still lingering around the same type of ratio. The point of this post is to present the immediate impact which Forster has made, and that maybe Southampton will be able to push on and start playing more consistently from now on.

*also apologize for the terrible title – I’m bad at it

To learn more about expected goals;


 

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