It was only a couple of months ago when some neutrals were stating that Southampton could still be involved in the relegation dog fight. Now, after a run that has seen them claim five wins in their last six games, they are in with a chance of Europa League qualification, and are only one point behind Manchester United in fifth place.
Since returning from a nine month layoff due to a knee injury, Fraser Forster is yet to concede a goal in the Saints side. He has quite rightly taken a lot of praise for his part in his side’s six consecutive clean sheets, but his defence certainly deserve some credit as well.
I recent weeks Ronald Koeman has opted for a system that deploys three centre backs and wing backs. Though Maya Yoshida, Virgil van Dijk and even Ryan Bertrand have all been given the chance at centre back in the new formation, Fonte has been a consistent part of the defensive and has thrived with an extra man alongside him at centre half.
Even though Forster has been at the centre of their excellent defensive form, barring the Arsenal game, he hasn’t had all that much to do. In the game against the Gunners, Forster made 11 saves, the most by any keeper in a single game in the Premier League this season. In the other five however, he has made a total of only six saves.
Fonte has been one of the men responsible for these excellent defensive performances given that he is often the most central of the three centre backs. With Southampton winning three of those six games by just the single goal, it shows just how crucial their defence has been in their rise up the Premier League table. Fonte’s distribution of the ball has also improved, with him completing all of the 30 passes he attempted in the win at Swansea.
His recent form highlights the 32-year-old’s excellent record in English football, having signed for Southampton in January 2010 while they were in League 1. More recently his impressive showing in the Premier League has earned himself a place in the Portuguese national team, and he will hope his recent performances will earn him a place in their Euro 2016 squad.
For now at Southampton, Fonte will continue to play a key role in Ronald Koeman’s team, and will feel that they can definitely finish in the Premier League top seven, and perhaps even reach fifth.