FRASER Forster has piled praise on Saints’ defensive stalwarts Jose Fonte, Virgil van Dijk and Ryan Bertrand for helping him make the perfect comeback from long-term injury.

The keeper's long-awaited return after ten months out has been marked by three successive clean-sheet victories and coincided with a dramatic upturn in form after a worrying run of eight losses in ten league and cup games.

Many have pinpointed Forster’s impact as the reason for Saints’ transformation, from a questionable defensive unit to one that looks very sturdy indeed.

Now, as he aims for yet another shut-out against Arsenal a week today, the towering England goalkeeper has diverted praise onto the defenders that protect him.

“As a team, we’ve defended really well over those three games,” Forster explained.

“We’ve got fantastic quality just in front of me – Berty, Jose and Virg. That combination has really come together.

“Even in front of that the midfielder’s are working really hard. We’ve got Victor, Jordy - anyone who plays in front of us is working hard.

“We’ve got a fantastic team shape and I think we’ve really executed the game plan in the last three games.”

In recent weeks Ronald Koeman has set-up with a back five, with Bertrand on the left of Fonte and van Dijk on the right of a centre-back trio.

They have been imperious together, with Bertrand, normally a left-back by trade, doing an exceptional job in an unfamiliar role.

In fact, such has been the success of that line-up, Forster has only had to make two saves during the last three games.

“I’m happy, to be fair,” Forster said, when asked if he’d rather have some shots to save. “It’s one of them, I don’t really mind, if we keep playing like we are, I’ll take that all day long.

“I don’t want to be overworked. As a team, you want to be solid and compact and just go from there.

“If we can be solid at the back it really allows the forward players to go on, and with the quality we’ve got upfront, if we get a chance, we’ll take it.

“We’re very solid.”

Forster has been impressed by England full-back Bertrand’s performances as a centre-half.

“Berty’s a top, top player. You can play him anywhere in the team and he’ll do a job for us,” he said.

“He’s fantastic and he’s really shown his qualities since he came to Southampton. He’s one of those players that is just a luxury to have.

“He works really hard and a very gifted individual. We’re very fortunate to have him.”

He added: “Whether he plays left-wing, left-back, left sided centre-half it’s not a problem for him, he just gets on with it and gives 100 per cent every game.

“He’s a real leader in the team.”