Long-time readers will know I’ve backed Lukasz Fabianski for a long time. That faith was finally beginning to waver earlier this season, but in the summer I said that if one of our two top keepers left the club, I would rather it were Almunia. The reasoning was simple – at his best, Fabianski is a better keeper than Almunia is at his best. The Spaniard has been our number one for so long because he has more consistency in his game – while outstanding saves are few and far between (albeit reserved for big games – United and Barcelona in the Champions League spring to mind), he makes shocking mistakes less than his Polish counterpart.
Fabianski has made massive contributions in our last two away games, keeping impressive clean sheets at Man City, and even more so at Wolves in midweek, where he pulled off a string of stunning saves to preserve our slender lead. After previously being incapable of shutting the opposition out, we’ve only conceded one goal in four league games, a mark of our improvement at the back given how much pressure those teams have put us under.
However, the one goal we did concede was a poor one, and while the defence didn’t help him out, Fabianski was at fault for it. It is an indication that the potential for mistakes remains in his game, although it was a credit to him that he didn’t crumble and followed it up with his best display in an Arsenal shirt. His confidence has come a long way.
And while many retain doubts, there is little argument against him continuing as number one, even when Almunia imminently returns to the fold. With Szczesny impressing in the Carling Cup and signing a new contract this week, the future looks bleak for the Spaniard.
He won’t give up without a fight, and nor should he. He waited patiently for his chance and seized it when Lehmann began to fade, and has regained his spot in the past when Wenger has placed his faith in Fabianski. But this feels different – Szczesny is knocking on the door and is young, hungry and supremely talented. Almunia’s time may have passed.
As for Fabianski, he needs to continue in the same vein. He is more decisive than ever, less affected by errors, and perhaps most importantly seems to have gained the trust of the back four. His is some way to go yet, but the signs are good that Wenger’s long term faith may not be as misplaced as many believed.
He will be tested today. He weakness, as Carroll exposed, is against the aerial ball, or at least that is where his inconsistency lies – more often than not he deals with the threat very well, but now and then gets his bearings all wrong. Everton have some excellent crossers, and in Tim Cahill, a genuine aerial threat.
After United drew yet again at Villa yesterday, we have the chance to go second ahead of next weekend’s derby. With Chelsea likely to beat Sunderland at home, any dropped points will see the gap grow further. A tricky game it may be, but we should be looking to win it.
The Pole in goal may need to shine again.