You have to hope that Arsene Wenger isn’t about to scrap any potential summer transfer plans. As even after two very confident performances against Bayern and Swansea, Lukas Fabianski is not the long-term answer to Arsenal’s goalkeeping problems.
Arsenal has always been in need of a good enough alternative to Wojciech Szczesny, even when the youngster looked to be the club’s undisputed number one. On paper, Fabianski now appears to be the perfect backup to his younger and previously more assured compatriot.
Of the two, Szczesny has shown a level of confidence that has long been absent from Fabianski’s game. It’s the mind-set that Arsenal has needed since Jens Lehmann moved on, and yet it hasn’t always been the most positive attribute of Szczesny’s personality.
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It’s a belief from Szczesny that the hard work is done, that no matter what happens, the starting position will be his the following week. From Fabianski, you don’t get that sense of unwarranted accomplishment.
The problem is it’s only now that we’re seeing something genuinely positive. It’s been said that Fabianski has matured from his shaky demeanour and has gained the confidence from his team-mates. Mikel Arteta notably spoke out with regards to Fabianski’s performance in Germany, stating that he could play an important role for the remainder of the season. There’s certainly a feeling that the goalkeeper is taking this opportunity with both hands.
However, it’s too easy to get carried away; after all, isn’t this overly familiar? On paper, Fabianski looks to be the perfect balance to Szczesny’s character, but how long will it be before one of those mistakes comes up again? Goalkeepers have it in them to have poor spells, but not to the level that we’ve seen from Arsenal’s goalkeepers. We do not know if Fabianski has turned a corner, and if he hasn’t, how long will it take him to get over the next slip-up?
What Arsenal potentially have here is a fortunate set of circumstances where the poor form of Szczesny has given Fabianski an opportunity to play for his next contract. With his deal running out this summer, this is the window the Pole needs to find himself a group of admirers on the continent. For all his good work in training – a degree of performance that Wenger has spoken about many times in the past – the Premier League is still yet to see it for a prolonged spell.
It’s a situation that could benefit all parties in the long-term. I don’t believe the game is up for Szczesny at Arsenal, but it has become clear that he needed time out of the first-team. Too often goalkeepers become complacent, especially when the competition at a club is nothing of the fierce nature it should be. More than anything, Szczesny needs to wake up to what the club’s position is, rather than assuming his place is safe and that lapses in concentration will be excused.
This period between now and the summer will give Szczesny an indicator as to what is potentially on the cards for next season; a new arrival in goal – which Arsenal still have to pursue – will give the manager plenty of comfort to change things up if performances drop.
Unintentionally, Wenger has created a very promising situation for his team. Fourth place may not be out of the question now with a goalkeeper playing for his career beyond the end of this season. While there can also be few who would doubt Szczesny’s ability and willingness to come back from this much stronger than what we’ve seen.
There is an opportunity for Wenger to significantly strengthen the goalkeeping position at Arsenal through the outcome of these next few weeks. But the underlying factor here remains that Fabianski should be moved on, regardless of how well he performs. The talent may be there, but the mentality is still highly questionable.
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