Southampton V Arsenal at St. Mary's Stadium : Match Preview

09 May 2017 12:34

Fraser Forster is back to his best, says Southampton boss Claude Puel

Southampton boss Claude Puel says goalkeeper Fraser Forster is over his early-season jitters and back to his best.

Forster's form was under scrutiny earlier this term following some unconvincing displays, notably when his mistake helped Crystal Palace to a 3-0 win in December.

But the England international has looked more assured in keeping back-to-back clean sheets in 0-0 draws against Hull and, on Sunday, at Liverpool when he saved a penalty from James Milner.

Saints host Arsenal on Wednesday night with Puel, who managed Tottenham's Hugo Lloris while he was at Lyon, backing Forster to maintain his fine recent form.

"I can say about Fraser that, in the second half of the season, he's playing with good consistency in his game," said the Frenchman.

"Like at Liverpool he had a good presence and put his personality on the game, not just with the penalty save.

"I am happy with Fraser, it's important for the team and the player to give their best. He also plays behind a strong defensive unit.

"Fraser is important and for the team it's important he has a good performance.

"I cannot compare him with other goalkeepers. Every other goalkeeper, like Lloris, has another profile.

"But it's important to have a good goalkeeper to get results and over the second half of the season I am satisfied with Fraser."

Puel has also tipped Manolo Gabbiadini to rediscover his goal touch against the Gunners.

The January signing from Napoli scored six times in his first four Saints appearances but has not found the net since returning from a groin injury.

Saints did not manage a shot on target at Anfield, but Puel says Gabbiadini and his team-mates will go on the attack against Arsene Wenger's side.

"I think sometimes it's difficult, when you come back from an injury, to find the good rhythm and good intensity - and of course we played a difficult game for a striker against Liverpool," added Puel.

"He played alone, between two or three defenders, so it's difficult to have the ball.

"Like many strikers his quality is in the box, and we need to have the ball high up the pitch on the opponent to have the final shot and find the clinical edge.

"It's important to play as high as possible, against Liverpool it was another tactic. We played against a good team, they wanted the three points for their position in the table.

"It was difficult, but against Arsenal it will be another game. I think this game will be open and perhaps we will see more opportunities for them and for us."

Charlie Austin, who has been out since December with a shoulder injury, could be added to the squad after playing for the club's under-23 side on Friday along with full-back Matt Targett, who is returning from a hamstring problem.

Defender Virgil van Dijk (ankle) and back-up goalkeeper Alex McCarthy (hamstring) remain on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, Wenger insists he never wants to work alongside a director of football at Arsenal.

The 67-year-old is still yet to be drawn on whether he will sign a new contract to remain at the Emirates Stadium beyond the end of the current season.

After another season which has seen the Gunners drop out of the Premier League title race and exit the Champions League at the last-16 stage, reports continue to surface that Arsenal board members are keen to reshuffle the backroom set-up.

The likes of former Arsenal winger Marc Overmars and ex-Germany international Michael Zorc have been linked with a director of football role at the north London club, with the pair currently filling that position for Ajax and Borussia Dortmund respectively.

Many Premier League clubs now have a director of football in some guise, while others rely on a transfer committee to decide on potential new recruits.

But Wenger, who has been in charge at Arsenal for over 20 years, says he does not want such a structure introduced while he is still in the job.

"I'm the manager of Arsenal Football Club and as long as I'm manager of Arsenal Football Club, I will decide what happens on the technical front, that's it," he said.

"I don't know what director of football means. Is it somebody who stands in the road and directs play right and left? I don't understand and I never did understand what it means."

Wenger has seen a number of Arsenal fans protest against him continuing as manager beyond this season.

The Frenchman said he would know whether he was staying or going in March or April but is still yet to make that announcement.

Asked on Tuesday if this was the day he would reveal any decision, he simply said: "No."

Wenger has a fitness worry over defender Laurent Koscielny, who injured his calf in the win over Manchester United.

But he should have Granit Xhaka available after the midfielder limped out of Sunday's game having given Arsenal the lead, while Lucas Perez is also back following a slight setback in recovering from a thigh issue.

Source: PAR