Erik Ian Larsen: Lukasz Fabianski dishes out some humble pie
Written by Erik Ian Larsen on October 25, 2010 19:00
I have to admit, I’ve enjoyed the nickname Flappyhandski, bestowed upon our error prone goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski by Arsenal fans tired of the club’s inconsistent goalkeeping. The nickname wasn’t ever really about Fabianski, it was about the goalkeeping crisis that’s plagued our club since Jens Lehmann left, and Arsenal fans expressed their dismay by targeting what, up to Sunday’s game against Manchester City, had been an easy scapegoat.
But guess what, Arsenal fans? It’s time we all eat crow.
Lukasz Fabianski brought it on Sunday. He brought it in a game that we desperately needed to win. He brought it on the road, where the pressure has killed him and our team in the past. He brought it when we needed a leader, someone to step up and show some confidence for a team that tends to buckle in matches like this. Man City could’ve scored, some would argue they should’ve scored, but because of Lukasz Fabianski, they didn’t. Think about that. Just think about what that means in the context of our season. Arsenal has been written out of the title hunt by the media and opposing teams because of its goalkeeping, but if this is the real Lukasz Fabianski, we may be in for an entirely different ride this year.
We smoked Manchester City 3-0 on the road. We were a team brimming with surprising confidence, especially Samir Nasri and Alex Song who flourished in midfield, and a lot of that has to come from the early tests Fabianski passed. That changes the way a team plays, it fills the defense with assuredness that small mistakes aren’t going to be exacerbated by poor goalkeeping. Fabianski didn’t hesitate like he normally does; he didn’t muff crosses or flap at free kicks. He was strong in the air, he controlled his box, and he showed a patchwork defense that he had its back. Man City is a tough, physical team, and they’ve killed us in the past because of their aggressiveness toward goal, but Fabianski was the tough, physical, aggressive player on Sunday. It was the first time I’ve ever seen him like that, the first time he’s been in goal where I thought, “Man, he’s locked in.”
I’ve begged for a new keeper this year, and while I still hesitate to doubt my instincts, I have to give full credit to our new number one, Lukasz Fabianski. Manuel Almunia is an afterthought now, not just because of one game, but because Fabianski has put together a string of matches, the type of string he’d begged for to build up his confidence and prove Arsenal fans wrong, to show the manager and the fans that there’s more to him than a goofy bowl-cut and a stunned expression.
I like that mentality, I like that he’s playing for something more than a paycheck. He’s playing to destroy the deserved reputation he’s earned through laughable gaffes in the past, and that type of motivation is either going to build him or break him. Either way we’re going to end up with a new keeper, whether it’s a renovated Fabianski or someone entirely different. But through all of his high-profile mistakes, through all of the questions from the fans and the media, through all the justified doubts, there were two people who always believed in Fabianski: Arsene Wenger and Lukasz Fabianski. I applaud them both for their resilience, and I hope they are ultimately rewarded for their conviction.
As of today, I’m done with that nickname. Lukasz Fabianski, you are our number one.