Stats Zone Premier League Centre-Back of the Year 2014/15
Back in August, few observers would have named Jose Fonte among Southampton’s star names. In fact, he was probably the lowest-profile member of Saints’ back four behind England hopefuls Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand and Belgium mainstay Toby Alderweireld. But this season the Portuguese centre-back really made a name for himself, becoming the key figure of the Premier League’s meanest defence.
The success Ronald Koeman’s side enjoyed this season was built on a water-tight backline – one that conceded just 33 goals over the course of 38 matches. This was probably just as well given their new wave of attacking players – namely Dusan Tadic, Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle – have been prone to spells of brow-slapping profligacy. Fonte was imperious from the first whistle of the season to the last, and it was therefore a surprise to see the Saints’ skipper omitted from the PFA’s Team of the Season. The Portuguese was certainly far more solid and reliable than Chelsea’s Gary Cahill – who did make the cut – and you could also make an argument for the Southampton man having a better individual season than Cahill’s defensive partner (both at Stamford Bridge and in the PFA XI) John Terry. And argue we will...
Terry may have ended the season by lifting the Premier League trophy, and the Chelsea defender has certainly had a superb campaign, but Fonte has performed to an even higher level. Over the course of the league season, the 31-year-old made a total of 22 blocks, 56 successful tackles, 119 interceptions and 202 clearances. The Blues' skipper made 30 blocks, 37 successful tackles and only 32 interceptions.
Perhaps his humble career path – from Portugal to the Premier League, via Crystal Palace and League One – has for some reason prevented him from winning the plaudits his consistent brilliance has deserved.
Fonte came into his own around the turn of the year, when many were tipping Southampton to fall away into mid-table obscurity. Against Arsenal on New Year’s Day, he made 2 timely interceptions and 11 clearances as Arsene Wenger’s side were not only kept at bay, but beaten 2-0 at St Mary's.
Little over two weeks later, Fonte made 2 blocks, 12 clearances and a whopping 7 interceptions, as the Hampshire side scrapped to a 2-1 win at Newcastle. His luck was also in that day, with referee Bobby Madley failing to spot what looked a pretty clear handball in the penalty area. Southampton may have faltered in the final run-in, with only two wins from their last eight, but the eventual seventh-placed finish is highly commendable and may still be enough for Europa League football. Fonte was at the heart of their success.
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