Lukas Fabianski has shown in recent weeks the importance of competition and a strong goalkeeping department in order to be successful at the highest level.
The Polish international has been unable to displace compatriot Wojciech Szczesny from the permanent spot as Arsenal’s first choice, which will result in his departure from the club when his contract expires at the end of the season. But it will be a considerable loss, as for the first time in years, Arsenal’s goalkeeping options are among the strongest in the Premier League.
Fabianski, Arsenal’s cup keeper, had a fine game against Wigan in the FA Cup semi-final, saving the opening two penalties he faced. His game throughout was one of calm and assurance. Even though Szczesny has been back to his best this season, there is always a doubt about Arsenal’s No.1 and the probability of a disastrous mistake at the back.
The competition and reliability of Fabianski has meant Arsene Wenger has been able to drop Szczesny to bench, either due to poor performances or ill discipline, a choice he has never had in the past due to the impoverished state of Arsenal’s options.
Fabianski, for the second year running, stepped in during a time of possible crisis and started away to Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Two successive years, two completely different scenarios, yet two fantastic performances from Arsenal’s backup.
Fabianski has come a long way from his calamitous performances in the early stages of his career at the Emirates. Wenger regularly spoke of the ‘keeper’s quality behind the scenes in training, but had seen very little translated into competitive games, citing the fragile confidence of the former Legia Warsaw shot stopper.
But the 28-year-old has received plenty of praise from his teammates of late, with Thomas Vermaelen sounding out the Pole as an “outstanding” goalkeeper. It isn’t just about remaining competitive, it’s about placing an individual in goal who has the confidence of his defence in front of him. Wenger has neglected that aspect of successful team building since the departure of Jens Lehmann in 2008, and he must now heed the words of players who are in the thick of it and are affected by the performances of the goalkeeper.
It will take a lot to convince Fabianski to stay on at Arsenal, and for what it’s worth, that looks to be a ship that’s sailed. It means Wenger must address that department in the summer, preferably with an experienced head rather than the possible promotion of Damien Martinez from the reserve team.
Arsenal’s defence, including the goalkeeper, has come a long way over the past year. They’re a far more assured unit and have played a notable part in Arsenal’s good fortune on the pitch in the early parts of this season.
By not properly replacing Fabianski, Wenger runs the risk of reverting back to the days when Arsenal’s goalkeeping blunders would cost them a large number of points over the course of the season. Fabianski’s presence on the bench, as well as the further option in Emiliano Viviano, has kept Szczesny alert and at the top of his game.
Like with most things at the club, Wenger must ensure the goalkeeping department isn’t resting on its laurels, and instead force a build from the good foundation developed over the past 12 months.