Lukasz Fabianski will soon be making his 81st successive Premier League start when he steps out at Villa Park on??Monday Night Football. It’s a run which stretches back to his penultimate season at Swansea and reveals the reliability and consistency which have begun to define him as a goalkeeper.
It also shows how far he has come. Last summer west Ham fans welcomed his birth from the Liberty Stadium and his subsequent performances have more than justified the 7m cost. But it isn’t such a long time ago, during his ancient years with Arsenal, that he had been seen.
Fabianski recalls the stress building. He remembers waiting impatiently for his opportunities and brooding on his mistakes. It’s five years since he left the Emirates Stadium, but on a bright afternoon at West Ham’s east London training floor, he also recalls the criticism – and the sensation of not quite understanding how to deal with this.
“It was a large challenge, emotionally,” he tells Sky Sports. “I’d come from Poland along with the attention on you is much larger when you get into the Premier League, so that which has been doubled or tripled. Apparently, there have been times when I struggled to take care of the criticism. It is a procedure and, in my own case, it took a little time to understand to deal with this.”
Fabianski’s final act as the Arsenal player was to help them win the FA Cup in 2014 – their very first trophy in a decade – but he left that summer having played 32 Premier League matches in seven seasons. Every error put him away from the No 1 shirt that he coveted, and the situation made it hard for him to put them .
“I wanted to prove myself about the pitch, but that I did not have many opportunities, so it put a lot more stress on every single game which I played,” he says. “I found myself in circumstances where I was so keen to demonstrate my possessions, but a lot of times it worked against me and I was punished for being overly eager.
“I think what happens when you don’t play regularly is that most of the small things that are very essential for our position are a little bit off. This past year, when I began pre-season, I might feel a small difference. Your timing is not your feeling of the match, there, your own spaces. When I made the decision to leave Arsenal, it had been predicated on this.”
In terms of the criticism, Fabianski was eventually able to use it. “That is the way I approached it,” he says. “I never spoke about it at a ways, but within me I felt as though this was actually one of the things that helped. This was something which drove me to secure.
“Over the years I think I have developed a better understanding of how being a goalkeeper – and I mean on and off the pitch. I mean how to manage certain circumstances, the way to prepare yourself how to browse the game. I believe I had to leave Arsenal to do that. I needed a fresh challenge in my entire life and I’m very pleased with how things have gone out of that instant.”
Fabianski is a picture of contentment. It is still here, although it had been that he rebuilt his standing, missing only three Premier League games in four years under no more than five different managers , back in London with West Ham, that he has taken his game to a different level.
Fabianski was called the player of the year of West Ham last season. According Opta, he made more saves in Europe’s top five leagues than any other goalkeeper. “It is not just about his performances during the games,” stated Manuel Pellegrini,”but also his performances each day of the week.”
Indeed, whilst a great deal is owed by the advancement of Fabianski to the stability he was never afforded at Arsenal, in addition, it comes down to a meticulous approach to prep. His”better comprehension of how being a goalkeeper” can be observed at the professionalism and dedication with which he or she trains.
“I have the concept that if you set yourself through hard, detailed training, and you put a great deal of attention into all the little details – the evaluation of the resistance, the movement and understanding of the game, the way your opponent plays then you certainly shouldn’t be frightened of making errors.
“That’s what I always try to describe to myself earlier matches as there are always some kind of nerves. Mistakes can always occur, but in case you can ask yourself whether you’re prepared on mind and the response is yes, since you are aware that you’ve done all the hard work, then you’ve done your occupation, and that means you are ready to go.”
Fabianski is grateful to the staff at Swansea – especially Tony Roberts and Javier Garcia – for instilling that mindset. In West Ham, however, his evolution has gathered speed under Pellegrini goalkeeping coach Xavi Valero, whose decorated CV includes spells at Liverpool, Real Madrid and Inter Milan.
“I have been blessed that, in the past few years, I have always had goalkeeping coaches who’ve been so detailed in their work. They’ve pushed me to perform more and more to increase my game’s amount. I’ve always been a man who is – it is another thing that compels me – but I have had goalkeeping coaches who’ve been more like that.
“Xavi has a great reputation and I’m not surprised. It has opened my head more. It was amusing as in my very first few days or weeks at West Ham, he did speak about my match, so I assumed he must be happy. But we had this assembly, he showed me some movies and said,’Listen, you must do this, so and this .’ I was like,’Jesus, alright, here we go again.'”
As he recounts the story fabianski yells, but he’s embraced the methods of Valero and they have paid off.
Last year, Fabianski’s saves were high about quantity in addition to quality. According to Opta’s statistics for expected goals, ” he conceded 12 goals fewer than he should have, depending on the caliber of opportunities he confronted. Without Fabianski, things would have been a good deal worse for West Ham To put it differently. No Premier League goalkeeper was so valuable to their own side.
The numbers are a source of satisfaction to Fabianski, but he’s quick to determine that shot-stopping is not the focus of the job with Valero. The Spaniard, he states, is more enthusiastic about the finer details of goalkeeping.
“He adores positioning, he enjoys decision-making and the calmness when it comes to making decisions,” states Fabianski. “Together with the positioning, I am not only talking about where you place yourself in your mailbox, but also the way your body contour is. Things such as that foot is currently facing forward.
“It’s really, really in depth stuff. Then he will show you how you might maintain a much better one, although sometimes you might think you’re in a good place. I like that. On the other hand you think, yeah, it’s the perfect way, although Occasionally it may drive you a little bit mad.
“If we are judged by the media and the fans, it should not only be on the saves because occasionally with better placement or better decisions, you can prevent making a save. Also, the sport is shifting – even the rules of the game are changing – so that demands the goalkeeper to develop. The function is shifting and that’s important too.”
Fabianski is judged a lot more favourably today than he was Arsenal, but does it bother him that he is often overlooked in conversations about the Premier League’s greatest goalkeepers? Swansea lovers adored him and he is cherished at West Ham, but does he believe he deserves recognition?
Fabianski shakes his head. An additional bonus of learning to manage criticism is that he craves praise. “It does not disturb me,” he says. “As long as I have the feeling within yeah, I have had a fantastic season, or I’ve had a good match and I have been an important part of the team, then I do not require that recognition.
“For me personally, the most important thing has ever been the acceptance of the supervisor along with the goalkeeping coach. If my team is happy with me, if they’re pleased with me, and obviously, I do not really need all the other things. It’s just something that is there, for the press and for its fans. It is something that the pundits like to discuss, but my focus is really on the job on the pitch”
That mindset is another reminder of just how much he’s come. Fabianski is not only a different goalkeeper into the person who started out in football at Arsenal, but a man . And the fantastic news for West Ham fans is that, at 34, he feels there’s much more to come out of him.
“I really don’t know how much I have left in the tank, but I feel great,” he says. “I just want to prepare myself nicely and keep trying to develop, because I think there is always space to develop and get better. I am just going to continue pushing. My intent is to become as far as I could from whatever I’ve got left.”
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