Solid Ben Foster exactly what Watford needed
Background photo: Greger Ravik, CC by 2.0
Scoring goals hasn't been Watford’s problem since they returned to the Premier League. Keeping them out has. That's less of a concern with Ben Foster between the sticks.
Goalkeepers can single-handedly, no pun intended, decide a match's outcome. David de Gea does so on a regular basis. A great save here or there can mean a point or all three. Blunders almost always guarantee defeat.
Heurelho Gomes, prior to this season was Watford’s No.1 four years running. The Brazilian wasn’t the most inspiring figure in goal. You never quite knew what to expect. One weekend, he's parrying them over the bar and beyond the far post. The next, he looks like he's never worn gloves before. No keeper is perfect but Gomes is among the few with both a high and lowlight reel on Youtube.
When Ben Foster moved to Vicarage Road from West Brom in the summer; it didn’t make headlines. Quietly, the forner Stoke City and Manchester United standout made a massive impression as the Hornets No.1. Watford no longer play as open at the back as they once did. Foster took charge of the backline in a way Gomes never could. Leadership on the pitch isn’t always about shouting and pointing; it's about setting an example. Foster leads by example.
According to the Premier League, the 35-year-old has made 78 saves, 22 high claims and 25 sweeper clearances while keeping six clean sheets, one more than the Hornets managed all last season. Most telling, he's yet to make an error that leads to a goal.
Stats can be misleading. Making more saves can reflect the quality of your defenders as much as your own. However you look at it, though, the Englishman has been an upgrade on the 38-year-old Brazilian.
Foster won’t always make the saves look pretty for the cameras. Old school in the way he goes about his business, it’s all about keeping the ball out. Away at Brighton, he was easily Watford’s best player. It wasn’t the first time even though manager Javi Graci was impressed after the goalless draw.
He is a very important player. He has an amazing character and ambition, and his experience is very good for us.
Watford is an ambitious club, no doubting that, but the Hornets haven't managed a top table finish as yet. They typically begin the season like a house afire, scoring goals at will, racking up points, only to peter out late in the campaign.
Gracia's bunch look a tougher side than that. With the level-headed Spaniard in charge, they're well on course for their highest finish since returning to the big time. The Watford rearguard remains a work in progress. A defence doesn’t go from porous to mean overnight. A pair of steady hands in goal has helped in no small part, however. Matters can only improve further as the former Baggies goalie continues to settle into his new surroundings. The rest of the Premier League should be on their guard.