The news that ‘keeper Manuel Almunia will have to be removed from betwixt their sticks for tonight’s Champions League game with FK Partizan Belgrade due to a niggling elbow injury is reason enough for many-an Arsenal supporter to allow a feeling of womb-like warmth spread through their internal cavities – however, when the accompanying caveat of the Spaniard’s enforced absence hits home like a Polish atom bomb, all misguided pretences of renewed security are hastily chastened.
“That means Lukas Fabianksi is going to deputise…” – you can almost feel a thousand hearts stop beating en masse, for they know what that means.
Somehow there is a man out there that is fated to inspire even less in terms of goalkeeping confidence than the critically low levels that Almunia currently instills, and it just so happens that he also numbers Arsenal as his employers – how the laws of the universe mock us at every turn.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger‘s continuing (and seemingly misplaced) faith in his hapless stable of senior goalkeepers has baffled many and with the club in such a healthy financial position, his lack of investment in new, ‘less rubbish’ last-line talent over the summer baffled many more.
Speaking before tonight’s game, Wenger was again moved to forcibly defend his selection;
“Fabianski is ready. I don’t have any concerns. Yes, he made mistakes at Porto but he can show he has learned from that.
For him, it is another big chance – but you want a goalkeeper or any player to grab the chance when you get it. As a manager you can give a chance to a player who is good enough and I believe in his talent.
He gets another opportunity to show how good he is. I want him to show how good he is. There is only one way to show confidence in a player and that is to put him on the pitch and give him his chance.”
Fabianksi is not ostensibly a particularly bad ‘keeper, but a series of high-profile disasters in nearly every competition Arsenal have taken part in have rendered him as such – a tag that is now so ingrained that he stands a very real chance of never being able to completely shed it.
It’s easy to forget that there was a time when the Pole was lauded as a potential but it’s also worth remembering that there is a limit to the amount of times you can shoot yourself in the foot before you become intrinsically lame.
Fabianski’s only appearance this season was in Arsenal’s 4-1 Carling Cup dismantling of rivals Tottenham, and he still ensured that he ended the game with a one-for-one cock-up ratio by letting Robbie Keane‘s weak effort to dribble in past his limp-wristed dive. In the end, his shortcoming proved to be inconsequential, but that doesn’t excuse
Rather than view this as a ‘big chance’ for the 25-year-old, I think it’s an occasion to savour as possibly being his ‘last chance’ – which adds a little of what American focus groups call ‘jeopardy’ to the proceedings.
When you take into account the mounting pressure, the perpetual questions over his ability and the fact that there are young understudies of the quality of Vito Mannone and Wojciech Szczesny plugging away underneath him in the pecking order, I have a real fear that we are going to see Fabianski’s Arsenal career come to an abrupt end against Partizan tonight.
I know it’s only spurious foresight, but I envisage another mistake – another potentially crucial mistake – a mistake that would completely undermine and eradicate any shred of confidence currently lying dormant.
The press are already primed for him to fail and the resultant torrent of hoo-ha would be almost over-whelmingly omnipresent, and I don’t think Fabianksi (judged solely on his wan reaction to his previous bollock-drops) would have the mental wherewithal to shrug another potentially monstrous tidal wave of criticism off.
Game over, kaput.