Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster will not be available for the Boxing Day (26 December) visit of Arsenal despite returning to first-team training. The England international has been out since March with a knee injury and belatedly rejoined Ronald Koeman's side on 22 December.
Forster will have to train for another fortnight before he is considered for a competitive return, with the Under-21 Premier League Cup meeting with Chelsea on 6 January earmarked as the potential date for the resumption of his Saints career. The 27-year-old injured his left patella tendon against Burnley last season and Koeman is delighted to see him back.
"Fraser Forster is doing normal training sessions," said Koeman during a pre-match press conference to preview the visit of Arsenal, according to the club's official website. "I think that's the next step, and now we have to choose a good date when he plays his first match, his first maybe under-21 [game against Chelsea] – on 6 January, maybe it will be. If everything goes well until that date, maybe it's a good game for him to start.
"It's amazing to see him back to be part of the team, because he did a fantastic job last season. But the most important is that he is coming back at the level what he knows and what we know from Fraser. OK, that needs time, and when it is we wait, but he's back to the team and that's important."
Though Forster will not be considered for a senior return until the New Year, his return comes during a state of flux in goal for Southampton, with Maarten Stekelenburg and Paulo Gazzaniga both competing to face Arsenal. Stekelenburg is back in contention after missing two games with a toe injury and will duel with his Argentina counterpart for a starting spot.
"Maarten Stekelenburg is back, he's done sessions from last Monday, and he will be available for the weekend," Koeman said of his selection dilemma for the Arsenal game. "First I like to wait about the sessions of the whole week. We have still the Thursday session and the Friday session and then we make our mind up. I will have a discussion with Dave Watson about the goalkeeping and then we will decide who will start."