The Effect That Lukasz Fabianski Has on West Ham & Why He’s So Important Going Forward

​I, like many other West Ham fans, sat back on Friday night and winced when Lukasz Fabianski clutched his hip and sat down on the turf at Bramall Lane.

The Pole had just taken a routine goal kick, but had immediately signalled to the bench that he had a problem after his follow through. With his head in his hands, Fabianski knew his game was over – with fears that he’d suffered a recurrence of the injury that had ruled him out for three months undoubtedly running through his head.

If they weren’t, he’s a better man than me – because I was crestfallen at the prospect of Fabianski being out for a lengthy period of time again.

Lukasz Fabianski

After a minute or so of treatment, he carefully made his way to the sidelines to be replaced by the reassuring sight – in the sense that it wasn’t Roberto, possibly one of the worst goalkeepers in Premier League history – of David Martin.

The son of club legend Alvin, he’d ably deputised during the final few weeks of Fabianski’s first injury layoff, doing relatively well despite his inexperience at the highest level.

But deep down, I feared the worst.

Sadly, those fears were realised after Martin’s kamikaze mix-up with Fabian Balbuena allowed Oli McBurnie to open the scoring ten minutes into the second half. The goal would prove to be the winner, thanks to the (un)timely intervention of VAR in the dying embers of the game, in what was a pretty dreary contest in the steel city.

In the aftermath, a variety of emotions pulsed through my veins. 

FBL-ENG-PR-SHEFFIELD UTD-WEST HAM

First, anger. 

Anger that the handball rule – not the decision made by VAR – is not fit for purpose in the modern game, and angry that it had cost us a valuable point on the road. But that feeling of fury quickly turned to worry, when it dawned on me that Fabianski may be out of action until March, and worst case scenario, April.

That’s because, in his previous spell on the sidelines, West Ham were awful. An unmitigated disaster that saw early season promise under Manuel Pellegrini fly out of the window, leading to where we are now – another tiresome battle against relegation.

Fabianski played in ​West Ham‘s first seven games, helping the Hammers pick up 12 points. Three wins, three draws and a solitary defeat – to champions Manchester City – was a decent start.

In those seven games that Fabianksi played, before limping off at the Vitality Stadium, he faced 28 shots on target – an indication of West Ham’s strong early start – and conceded just eight times, a save percentage of 71.43%. He also failed to make an error leading to a goal, demonstrating his usual confidence in claiming crosses, as well as continuing to have consistent kicking ability.

Those impressive numbers followed a 2018/19 season in which Fabianski faced the most Premier League shots and made the most saves – keeping out 72.41% of the 199 shots rained down on him.

To put that into some kind of perspective, that ranked Fabianski as the third most productive keeper in the league – behind only Liverpool’s Alisson and Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris in terms of save percentage, both of whom had far less to do in their respective goals.

Lukasz Fabianski


“I think last season he was one of the two or three best goalkeepers in the league. I hope, at the end of this season, we can say exactly the same for him, because the way he works, he deserves it.” Manuel Pellegrini, September 2019.


Analysing statistics is one thing, but breeding confidence is another. And it’s no exaggeration to say that the former Arsenal goalkeeper – who once looked like he wouldn’t make the grade in English football – exudes the kind of confidence you’d want in between the sticks. 

He’s so good, in fact, that he was named Swansea’s Player of the Year and West Ham’s Hammer of the Year in back-to-back campaigns. The less said about the teams as a whole, the better, probably.

His replacement, Roberto, on the other hand, was a whole different kettle of fish. He didn’t do much wrong against Bournemouth, but against Sheffield United at the London Stadium, he was tentative. Clearly keen to impress, he contrived to do the opposite and was poor in allowing Lys Mousset’s tame volley to squirm past him at the far post. 

Catastrophic errors against Newcastle and Burnley followed, though he somehow kept his place in the team as an under-pressure Pellegrini refused to acknowledge that he was somewhat of a problem.

Roberto

When he finally was axed, he’d played eight times and faced an absolute deluge of efforts on goal. Partly because West Ham were playing awful football, but partly because teams thought he had a mistake or ten in him. Of the 52 shots he faced, he kept out 35 – a save percentage of 67.31% – but made two mistakes directly leading to goals, and should have done better on at least five other occasions.

Miserable to say the least.

David Martin has fared better, but his mistake against Sheffield United highlighted again how much of a miss Fabianski is. We all know that he wouldn’t have made that mistake, meaning the Hammers would have come away with a valuable point.

But he did. And we lost.

The good news – and this is exceptionally good news – is that Fabianski’s injury is not as bad as first feared. He’s likely to miss a couple of weeks of action at most, missing just the one league game in all likelihood.

He could even be back for the rearranged game with Liverpool at the London Stadium. But what we do know going forward is that Fabianski is an indispensable member of this West Ham squad, and is one that the club can’t just replace at a drop of a hat.

He single handedly wins the club points, changes the team’s dynamic on the field and offers a calm, reassuring presence.​I said he’d be the real MVP when he joined in July 2018 – I wasn’t wrong.


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