Southampton’s number one goalkeeper for much of last season was Fraser Forster, but he has left St Mary’s for Tottenham on a free transfer. Harry Lewis has also left the club after being there since 2015 (although he played for the first team only three times, and not since January 2017).
Alex McCarthy, who played nearly as much for the first team as Forster last year, and Willy Caballero (age 40) are staying with the club that has just purchased two new keepers in Gavin Bazunu and Mateusz Lis. So how will the four keepers fit together?
Southampton paid Man City £12 million for the 20 year old, and the fee could approach £15 million after potential add-ons. The deal is also believed to include a buy-back clause.
Despite his tender age, he is already a full international for the Republic of Ireland, having played ten times for them.
He hasn’t played in the Premier League yet though, loaned out to Portsmouth last year (where he kept 16 clean sheets) and Rochdale (who were relegated) the year before, so his only league experience is in League One. He obviously impressed at Portsmouth, being voted their player of the season.
Saints’ manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said about his new young keeper:
“As a club, we are always on the lookout for young talent and Gavin is a very exciting addition to the squad.
“We believe he has tremendous potential to improve and will give us great competition for places in the goalkeeping department.
“He is a goalkeeper with a very modern style of play, comfortable in the build-up phase, who has developed physically through some very important loan moves early in his career.
“He is already an international goalkeeper, which is very rare for his age. Coming from Man City, we know he has learned from some of the very best coaches and teammates, and coming here gives him more opportunities to develop his game through playing in the Premier League.”
Portsmouth manager Danny Cowley, acknowledging that he would not be able to hang on to his player of the season said:
“Gavin [Bazunu] will play in the Premier League. Let me tell you now: He is world class. He will be a world-class goalkeeper.”
Lis is a 25 year old Polish former youth international who has been picked up as a free agent from Turkish club Altay SK. He made 35 Turkish Super Lig appearances last season. Ralph Hasenhuttl has said that Mateusz Lis will be an “important addition” for Southampton:
“Mateusz [Lis] is a player who has a lot of the right attributes we look for in a goalkeeper, and still with his best years ahead of him. Of course, it was a priority for us to strengthen this department in the summer, and Mateusz is an important addition who we hope will be able to help us in the future.”
Four keepers can’t play - so who will?
If last season is anything to go on, it will be hard to predict who will be Southampton’s number one keeper. McCarthy suffered a hamstring injury, and then Forster was dropped for two games in favor of Caballero.
The expectation is that Lis will go out on loan and Caballero will be the backup to the other two, also helping on the coaching staff.
So we can expect Bazunu to be challenging McCarthy for the number one spot, and it is probably a matter of when, not if, he will take over, given his obvious potential.
Southampton has a habit of stringing good results together and then having a huge collapse, which might be damaging for a young player’s confidence. So it will be interesting to see how this goes — Can he strengthen the Saints defense significantly?
Bazunu clearly expects to get plenty of game time this year:
“I had a really good conversation with him (Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl), the goalkeeping coach (Andrew Sparkes), and some other people at the club a few weeks back before anything was done.
“That was a big part of me signing for the club, to hear from him and what he thinks I can do was a massive part in that. And also the goalkeeping coach and what his role in the development would be. That’s very important. It was a big decision to move away from Manchester City but I had multiple conversations with [goalkeeping coach] Xabi [Mancisidor], he was brilliant for me and understood the opportunity that I had.
“He didn’t want to stand in my way which was massive for me and from then I was very clear that I wanted to go out and be playing regular football. I’ve had two really good years of playing 30/40 games (on loan) and it’s stood to me and I don’t want to go back to a position where I’m going to be limited in the games I can play.”
Let’s be honest, Southampton is not the first team you go looking for a fantasy keeper, especially after consecutive seasons suffering 9-goal shellackings. However, purely based on price, each of their three keepers was a possible play in Fantrax last season from time to time. At £4.5M, Bazunu might be a second keeper option, but that likely depends on the options at £4.0M.
So this looks like a wait and see situation. The opening fixtures don’t look particularly kind for the Saints — Tottenham, Man United and Chelsea are all on deck for the first six games. Opposition eases up a little in September, so that may be the time to look again, and then it may be clearer who will be starting, and whether the Saints have plugged leaks at the back.
Who will be Southampton’s number one keeper next season?
This poll is closed
Are you excited about the Southampton goalkeeper prospects for next season? Are you tempted to put any of them into your fantasy teams?