Should Fraser Forster be first choice for England?

Three Lions close

The in form Southampton keeper has more clean sheets than Joe Hart this season, and is dominating the incumbent in other areas too

Like most of his Manchester City teammates this season, Joe Hart has come in for a fair amount of scrutiny. Despite manager Manuel Pellegrini signing Willy Caballero over the summer to provide some direct competition and up performance levels, the twenty-seven-year-old has yet to re-discover the dominant form which once had him as the unquestionable number one for club and country. 

Ramping up the pressure on Hart are gaffes such as the double-kick against Queens Park Rangers, where his blushes were only saved thanks to a refereeing error, and the fact that he has been a part of the collective mental collapse of his team during the final stages of games. 

Despite Roy Hodgson experimenting with other keepers such as John Ruddy and Ben Foster, though, there hasn't historically been an English keeper playing at a high enough level to effectively challenge Hart for the No. 1 shirt. 

However, with Fraser Foster's transfer from Celtic to Southampton over the summer, for the first time a real challenger has emerged. The twenty-six-year-old has been in fine form for his club since stepping up to the Premiership, and is statistically out performing the established Hart.

  PositionTeamSavesGoals ConcededAccurate Goal KicksAccurate Keeper ThrowsTotal High ClaimCross Not ClaimedAccurate PassClean SheetAppearancesMins Played
Joe Hart GK Man City 23 10 35 49 13 1 118 3 10 900
Fraser Forster GK Southampton 18 5 34 42 19 0 164 7 11 990

Forster has more than double the amount of clean sheets than Hart does, although he has had to make fewer saves. He's also conceded half the amount of goals than Hart despite making an extra appearance, and has claimed more crosses to boot. 

However, it's in the distribution that Forster could well outshine Hart. A longstanding gripe against the City player has been the speed and accuracy of distribution from the back and his preference to pick the ball up and throw it, seen by Hart throwing the ball to teammates seven times more than Forster despite playing a game less. 

On average Forster passes the ball out three times more per game than Hart, and with the speed that England boasts in midfield and attack this could be crucial helping the team make breaks downfield. 

Joe Hart will most likely start against Slovenia at Wembley on Saturday, and his wealth of international and top-flight club experience means that he'll be hard to displace as England's first choice keeper in the short term. However, as preparations for Euro 2016 ramp up, his place is under serious threat. 

In almost every meaningful area Fraser Forster is outperforming him. Since moving to high-flying Southampton, Forster has had a seamless transition to the higher quality of football found in the Premiership, and there is no reason why he would not take to regular international football just as easily. 

Dropping Joe Hart and his 47 caps for a player who has had just eleven successful Premiership games would be a rash decision for Hodgson, however it also wouldn't be a surprise to see Forster get more action in friendlies and add to his existing two caps. 

With Forster's ability seemingly confirmed, it's up to Hodgson to keep on feeding him experience so that, at the end of the day, Hart will either raise his game, or Forster will have the full tool kit needed to succeed him. 

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch