Every team, which challenges for the title, has each and every person performing on top of their game. From the keeper to the forward, all have to do their job immaculately. A single week link is going to harm the team somewhere on the road to success.
Throughout the years it has been seen that to win titles you need a top class keeper. The keeper is the back bone of the team. He, if good, certainly can win crucial points for your team that can be decisive in the end.
Unfortunately, we are certainly not equipped with such a keeper, and even if our keepers are good they have yet to show that on the pitch. They certainly have cost us more points than won them for us.
Lukasz Fabianski is one such keeper. For all his reputation as a good keeper in training, has yet to show his greatness on the pitch. He was reputed to be a great find by Arsene, but he has continued to disappoint after making a good start at Arsenal.
Lukasz Fabianski started his career with Polonia Slubice. At the age of 14 he joined independent football academy, MSP Szamotuły, to improve his goal keeping skills as the academy is known for training goalkeepers. The breakthrough for him came when he joined Legia Warszawa in 2005 and subsequently helped them to a Polish League title. For his performance as a keeper, he was twice awarded the “Football Oscar” for the best goalkeeper in the Polish Ekstraklasa.
After impressing in Poland, he signed up for Arsenal from Legia for an undisclosed fee. He started his Arsenal career by playing regularly in the Carling Cup and his early appearances were reassuring that in the near future he will be Arsenal’s no 1.
But that wasn’t the case. A couple of bad matches and from being seen as our future no 1 people were calling him names for unimaginable mistakes.
Now how come a keeper, who has been remarkable in his early career suddenly, goes amiss when opportunity is given to him on the big stage? Is it the confidence? Is it his technique? Or he wasn’t good at all? Or his time is yet to come? What went wrong?
Performances at Arsenal:
Below is a collection of his matches (not all) that he has played for Arsenal along with a few lines about him from different blogs. It is just there to show how his performances have gone from good to bad to worse.
Arsenal 2 – 0 Newcastle, Carling Cup, 25-09-2007:
Le grove: Commanded his area excellently all game, he caught every single cross and his distribution, bar one kick was exceptional. He rolls the ball out to the flanks almost as soon as he catches the ball , it caught Newcastle out a few times yesterday. He also made a great save at the near post from an Oba’ header. One for the not too distant future I feel.
Gunnerblog: Had an extremely solid game. He is deceptively tall (about 6′3″, in fact), and put that height to use by claiming the majority of crosses that came his way. He seems to favour a catch over a punch, which is always reassuring. Made one excellent save from an Obafemi Martins header, and didn’t do a whole lot wrong when the Nigerian rounded him late on. An encouraging display, and I’m delighted we’ll be seeing more of him in this competition.
Sheffield Utd 0 – 3 Arsenal, Carling Cup, 31-10-2007:
Gunnerblog: Fabianski looked a little nervy under high balls but made a couple of decent saves
Blackburn 2 – 3 Arsenal, Carling Cup, 18-12-2007:
Le grove: Fabianski had great handling skills and his decision making was first rate. Fabianski looks like a good keeper. He gives off an air of calm. He made some great saves tonight and started the move for the second goal. If i had one complaint about him, it would be the constant punching of the ball. Other than that, he looks like he could be a helluva keeper!
Gunnerblog: In goal, Lukasz Fabianski gave a display that was assured and confident, despite the co-commentator on the game’s constant insistence that he “looked nervous”. When he was plucking crosses from the air with his 6′3″ frame he didn’t look particularly nervous to me.
Arsenal 1 – 1 Tottenham, Carling Cup, 09-01-2008:
Le grove: Fabianski played very well, making a couple of great saves.
Derby 2 – 6 Arsenal, Premier League, 28-04-2008:
Le grove: Fabianski looked weak in goal, being nervous against Derby is like being nervous about taking a penalty with no one in goal… he’ll have to improve if he wants to give the ever reliable Almunia a run for his money next year.
Arsenal 1 – 0 Everton, Premier League, 04-05-2008:
Le grove: I think Fabianski is a way off first team football, but he does look like our long term keeper.
Arsenal 6 – 0 Sheffield Utd, Carling Cup, 23-09-2008:
Le grove: This guy was named captain for the evening… our most experienced player at 23. He was commanding in the area during the first half, claiming 3 or 4 crosses and imposing himself in the area.
Arsenal 0 – 0 Fenerbahce, Champions League, 05-11-2008:
Le grove: Wasn’t it nice to see a keeper come out of his 6 yards area and claim a 40 yard ball into the box. He hesitated when he should have come off his line for a one on one… but other than that, an assured performance.
Arsenal 2 – 1 Man Utd, Premier League, 08-11-2008:
Le grove: Did ok with a couple of long balls, had no chance for the goal.
Arsenal 3 – 0 Wigan, Carling Cup, 11-11-2008:
Le grove: To start with he was trying too hard to show his worth. He made a hash of a few balls into the box, but you have to put that down inexperience. He did make a super save at the near post from Koumas to settle his nerves. and later on he came out well to deny Zaki a shooting opportunity. My opinion on Fabianski is that he is not ready to takeover from Almunia yet… but what he will offer when he is ready, is the ability to make the impossible save possible. Right at the end De ridder fired a shot in, he parried it… Zaki fired the ball back at him and he miraculously tipped it onto the bar. It was an amazing save and one I doubt Almunia would have made. He is a work in progress, but once complete… he’ll be something else.
Gunnerblog: Made the decision to come and collect crosses, sometimes more successfully than others. Although he had my heart in my mouth on more than one occasion, he ought to be congratulated for a quite remarkable double save to deny Daniel De Ridder and then Amir Zaki.
Burnley 2 – 0 Arsenal, Carling Cup, 02-12-2008:
Le grove: Well… return of the mad keeper eh? He is either superb or terrible… there is simply no in between with this guy at the moment. If there was a cure for his erratic play it would surely be some sort of animal sedative. He seems on edge all the time and that forces mistakes. He needs to slow everything down and take a deep breath. A calm keeper breads confidence. I am hoping this will come with age. After tonights performance I wouldn’t feel comfortable dropping Almunia.
Arsenal 3 – 1 Plymouth, FA Cup, 03-01-2009:
Le grove: I think he needs to slow things down a bit and take a few seconds. Some of his distribution was weak and that wasn’t down to ability, it was down to rushing his play. His overall game though is pretty good. He dominates his area like Almunia should do… he comes out for every cross, he lets the other players know where he is and he takes ultimate responsibility for what goes on in his area. He is also a pretty handy shot stopper. I don’t want to get too excited about him… but I really think he has all the ingredients to become an Arsenal great.
Gunnerblog: Lukasz Fabianski was at fault for the goal, and generally terrifies me. I’m sure those who champion him mistakenly identify his erratic charging out of goal as ‘commanding his area’ or some other nonsensical phrase. I am much, much happier when Almunia is between the sticks.
Cardiff 0 – 0 Arsenal, FA Cup, 25-01-2009:
Le grove: Someone must have slipped a Ritalin pill in his lucozade before the game because I thought he showed an unusual amount of composure and calmness today. He made a couple of smart saves and commanded his area well.
Arsenal 4 – 0 Cardiff, FA Cup, 16-02-2009:
Le grove: Solid game from our slightly hyperactive number 2. He didn’t really have much to do bar sweeping up any loose balls that landed in our half (Literally in our half… he’s like one of those jack russel’s that sees a ball and must chase it down).
Villa Real 1 – 1 Arsenal, Champions League, 07-04-2009:
Le grove: This was a big moment for the young Pole, could he come on in a crucial game and impress? Could he contain his nerves? Could he show us why he should be number one? Emphatically yes. Within minutes of entering the field of play he pulled off a remarkable double save. He commanded his box pretty well, bar a few communication lapses when coming out to clear the ball. Overall, I thought he played a blinder.
Arsenal 3 – 0 Villa Real, Champions League, 15-04-2009:
Le grove: A very able performance. Geoff said, ‘He hasn’t done much, but what he has done has been magnificent’.
Arsenal 1 – 2 Chelsea, FA Cup, 18-04-2009:
Le grove: I’d put the first goal down to daydreaming by Eboue and poor goalkeeping by Fabianski… and I’d put the final goal down to some great power play by Drogba, and some terrible keeping by the Polish number two. It was an error I expected though… that is why he isn’t ready for number one.
Liverpool 4 – 4 Arsenal, Premier League, 21-04-2009:
Le grove: His cock up in the semi final could have ruined his confidence but thankfully he is mentally stronger than that… he was mostly immense today and he deserves a lot of credit. His second half wasn’t the best, but the defence was shambolic.
Gunnerblog: Lukasz Fabianski made a string of good saves in the first half before imploding somewhat in the second.
Portsmouth 0 – 3 Arsenal, Premier League, 02-05-2009:
Le grove: His decision making was better today and he made a few tidy saves. He commanded his box well, I just think he needs to slow down when distributing the ball.
Man Utd 0 – 0 Arsenal, Premier League, 16-05-2009:
Le grove: He commanded his box well today, his distribution was pretty solid and he was decisive when putting Tevez off for the main United chance of the day.
Arsenal 2 – 1 Liverpool, Carling Cup, 28-10-2009:
Le grove: Fabianski looked assured and to be fair there was very little he could do about the goal
Gunnerblog: Lukasz Fabianski also made his first appearance of the season and looked solid enough
Man City 3 – 0 Arsenal, Carling Cup, 02-12-2009:
Gunninghawk: Can’t really blame him for the goals, the first two in the top corner and the third, well, game was lost already.
Olympiakos 1 – 0 Arsenal, Champions League, 09-12-2009:
Le grove: Fabianski showed why he should be number one last night. He came bounding out of his area for almost every ball that dared enter his box, he was off his line at lightning pace to deny the Greeks on a couple of occasions and his hands were safer than an empty match box. Given half a season, Fabianski could be the answer to all of our goalkeeping dreams.
Goodplaya: Dashed out very sharply to make a couple of decent saves late on. If, and right now it’s a decent sized if, he could keep a lid on the madness, he could do well.
West ham 1 – 2 Arsenal, FA Cup, 03-01-2010:
Le grove: He pulled off a couple of very clever saves and commanded his box.
Goodplaya: Could do nothing on the goal and pulled off one good save
Stoke 1 – 3 Arsenal, FA Cup, 24-01-2010:
Le grove: The worst performance I’ve ever seen an Arsenal keeper have.
Gunninghawk: Let me tell you, we’re in deep trouble when it comes to goalkeepers. If Almunia offers no protection whatsoever to the back four, you can’t say Fabianski does. Not to mention his dangerous distribution when he has the ball.
Porto 2 – 1 Arsenal Champions League, 17-02-2010:
Le grove: Two of the most ridiculous pieces of keeping I’ve seen. The first was inexcusable, the second was inconceivable. He scares the defence as much as Big Al.
ArsenalArsenal: isn’t there a building site that this man should be on. A career in plumbing or carpentry might be a more appropriate line of work because it sure as hell is not goal keeping.
Wigan 3 – 2 Arsenal, Premier League, 18-04-2010:
Le grove: I think it’s great that Flapianski dropped a clanger. I’m pretty sure he’s not good enough to be our number one next season. If he’d played a blinder yesterday, there was every chance Wenger would have kept the faith until next year, then we’d be in a whole world of trouble come Christmas. There is no way after yesterday Wenger can justify that risk now.
Gunninghawk: Why bother believing that we can win something when the men who defend our goal are Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski? Uncomfortable from kick-off and guilty of dropping the ball as if it was a ball of fire.
Arsenal 0 – 0 Man City, Premier League, 24-04-2010:
Gunninghawk: Absolutely nothing to do for Lukasz today, just a number of high balls to deal with.
Blackburn 2 – 1 Arsenal, Premier League, 03-05-2010:
Le grove: How many mistakes would Fabianski have to make to be considered a liability?
Gunnerblog: Fabianski has underlined his reputation as a calamity keeper.
Arsenal 4 – 0 Fulham, Premier League, 09-05-2010:
Le grove: Either way we must get rid of the two keepers, they are costing us and everyone I know feels the same way. Wenger, please listen, you must see they are just not good enough.
Gunninghawk: Still unconvincing. It seems that famous F.A. Cup goal gifted to Didier Drogba didn’t teach anything to poor Lukasz. Different game, different position and he could have easily seen red for that handball.
Tottenham 1 – 4 Arsenal, Carling Cup, 21-09-2010:
Le grove: Had nothing to do all game bar save a tame Robbie Keane near post shot… and he let it slip through his wrists. Awful goalkeeping but not surprising. How many more chances does he get? Has a keeper ever made so many mistakes? He’s almost on an error a game and that is unforgivable at this level. Promote Chesney if he’s good enough or buy someone who can cope with the mental pressure. 3
Gunninghawk: Had one shot to block and failed to do it. I watched the replay a couple of times and indeed, he should have done better. It’s a shame, I feel for him, he was given an opportunity and again made a mistake. Granted, Keane’s goal shouldn’t have stood but it did and it wasn’t blocked.
Partizan 1 – 3 Arsenal Champions League, 28-09-2010:
Le grove: Fabianski had a good game so credit to him, but don’t forget, even a blind Squirrel occasionally gets an acorn, put a decent run together and maybe I’ll change my mind, we’ll see, but Arsene, if I were you I would save the ‘I told you so grin’ until after the next game.
Gunnerblog: Whatever your feelings about Lukasz Fabiabski…
you had to be pleased for him when he plunged low to his right to save that penalty. It was a crucial save too: even 3-1 up against ten men is not a safe position for this Arsenal team. He made another good stop shortly after, and some deep part of you in which hope still burgeons wondered if perhaps we might have witnessed a turning point in the Pole’s career. That said, if Manuel Almunia is fit for Sunday I would definitely go with the more experienced keeper.
Chelsea vs Arsenal Premier League, 03-10-2010:
Le grove: Bar a shoddy flap at a Clichy headed clearance he had a pretty solid game. There was nothing he could do when Drogba back heeled into the near post by accident. There was little he could do from the Alex freekick. Well, actually, I think a world-class keeper would have done better, but we’re not in that situation so I’ve lowered my expectations. Made some great saves today and kicks the ball a mile.
Gunninghawk: Not much he could do to prevent the goals. One mistake in the early stages of the game when he punched the ball in a dangerous area but recovered well and produced a brilliant performance. The saved he produced were maybe not the most difficult in the world but he was there and did his job.
Now you would have noticed that he was getting generally good remarks right up to last season till the match against Stoke. He had a few problems but they were not that worrisome. Most of it was related to his confidence in goal and the way he dealt with the long balls. He would look nervous but still had good games and sometimes would come up with brilliant saves. His distribution was also questioned a few times. Still it was termed as young age and that more playing time will improve his abilities.
The things, however, rather than improving got worse. The semi final loss to Chelsea in the Carling Cup is one thing but the display against Porto in Champions league last season was too much to digest. From that day people have been calling for his replacement. Further disappointments against Blackburn and Wigan should have been the final nails in the coffin according to many, still we have him here and this season he has appeared in three matches (excluding the preseason).
His performances have so far been good according to his standards. So does this imply that he is back to his early Fabianski-mode, or is it just another one-off?
Looking at his record, you would notice that once he performs in a match, either good or bad, he continues with that to the next match. But you never know when he will perform badly because if he does the next match is also bad if he doesn’t get his nerves to settle. You are never sure with him and due to which you can never rely on him for the whole season. He may give you a few good games but he is going to slip up and you are just hoping that it doesn’t cost too much.
Even a normal performance by him is going to be praised more because we need his confidence to be raised. The performance against Chelsea should have been normal for a good keeper, rather below average because he wasn’t convincing. He made a few saves but any keeper would have made them. The thing is we expect mistakes from him and if they don’t come we say that he had a good game.
Now onto ratings:
Shot stopping: He is good at making saves and he has shown it over the matches. He has good reflexes but in order to show his ability he needs to be confident and if he is not he going to miss the simplest of chances too. 6.5
Crosses: Certainly one of his week areas. He is just never sure what to do with the crosses and generally ends up flapping at the air or makes things worse for himself. Will put this down to confidence and decision making. 4
Distribution: He tries to release the ball quickly whenever he catches it. This may be good if you are looking for a counter. Otherwise he puts the recipient of the pass under more pressure if his distribution is not good, which is sadly poor on most occasions. I will put this down to decision making. 4.5
Presence: You wouldn’t see him commanding his area well and he can be easily intimidated. Lack of confidence. 4.5
Positioning: Also his week area. He is not sure where to catch the ball, where to punch the ball, where to hold his line and where to come forward. Bad decision making and lack of confidence again. 4
So, most of his bad display is down to confidence and some bad decision making. Can he improve his Confidence? Yes, if he plays regularly. Can his decision making improve? Yes, with his confidence high, he will be good in making decisions. So is he the future keeper for Arsenal or is his time over? Only time can and will tell.
Fabianski is a good keeper if his confidence is high and his abilities are amplified when he is on top his game. It is all down to his nerves. If he can calm his nerves down he is going to have a decent game. If his confidence is low than there is no worse keeper than him and the mistakes that he will commit will be unbelievable.
So where does that leave us? Is he to be given the no 1 jersey till at least the January transfer window or should Almunia return? Seriously, there is nothing much to choose from. Both are liable to make mistakes, it’s just that which one will cost us more. I would go with Fabianski. Atleast it will give him more playing time and it will prove a point or two that should he be kept further. He has shown some consistency in the last three matches and let’s hope he carries with this confidence till January.
It’s a shame that a team that is challenging for the title has not yet identified its first keeper. We are still giving them the opportunity to prove their worth by allowing them to play in the important matches. It’s no wonder that our third and fourth choice keeper have come up and said that they should be given the chance. And they are right because if we are still checking the two above them, why not give them a try.
So do we need a new keeper? Are we to rely on the current keepers for this season? What about Mannone and Szczesny? Who should go out if we buy a keeper? Will Wenger spend on a new keeper if our current keepers display good performances? These are some seriously difficult questions that will be answered only when January arrives.
We can only hope for the best. But seriously any more mistakes by our current top keepers will be the end for them, for Almunia I think it’s already over if he doesn’t return to keep after he recovers from his injury.
Keep the faith.