Why fab­u­lous Fabi­an­ski is Poles apart for Swans

Western Mail - - SPORT - AN­DREW GWILYM Foot­ball cor­re­spon­dent an­drew.gwilym@waleson­line.co.uk

WHILE foot­ball is very much a team ef­fort, there can be no doubt Swansea City will owe Lukasz Fabi­an­ski a con­sid­er­able debt of grat­i­tude should they re­tain their Premier League sta­tus.

The Poland in­ter­na­tional has proved to be one of the best sign­ings of this top-flight era, per­haps of any era when you con­sider he was signed on a free trans­fer from Arse­nal in 2014.

There were those who had doubted him, he was cru­elly dubbed ‘Flap­py­hand­ski’ by some, but he has been noth­ing short of ex­em­plary for the Swans.

No wonder the Jack Army sing lustily of the ‘big Pole in our goal’ both home and away.

The 32-year-old, who turns 33 on Wed­nes­day, has not only im­pressed with his shot-stop­ping abil­i­ties, but with his dom­i­nance of the penalty area and au­thor­ity in the air.

It is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say Swansea would prob­a­bly al­ready be bound for the Cham­pi­onship were it not for his per­for­mances.

But just how good is the for­mer Arse­nal man? And what have his man­agers, team-mates and Swans greats had to say about him?

The stats

A QUICK glance through Fabi­an­ski’s record at Swansea makes for in­ter­est­ing read­ing, and an im­me­di­ate il­lus­tra­tion of just how good a sign­ing he has proved to be.

For ex­am­ple, in each of his four sea­sons in South Wales, Fabi­an­ski has been among the Premier League’s top three keep­ers when it comes to saves made.

Per­haps more sur­pris­ing is the high­est fig­ure in any sea­son came in the 2014-15 cam­paign - where Swansea fin­ished eighth - as the Pole made 137 stops.

In the sea­sons since he has tal­lied 115, 117 and 114, al­though the lat­ter tally is likely to rise with five games re­main­ing in the sea­son.

His save per­cent­age has also been con­sis­tently high. In his first year in South Wales he saved 74.7 per cent of all shots faced, his tally for this term is cur­rently 71.1. Over­all at Swansea the fig­ure is 69.3.

Ae­rial abil­ity

FABI­AN­SKI’S con­fi­dence and sure han­dling in the air have also been a big part of his suc­cess in South Wales, as part of a side who have tra­di­tion­ally had dif­fi­culty deal­ing with crosses and set-pieces.

Over each of the pre­vi­ous three sea­sons the 6ft 3in stop­per has led the Premier League in high claims, he is sec­ond to Burn­ley’s Nick Pope as this term reaches its close.

He has also been among the lead­ing keep­ers when it comes to suc­cess­ful punches.

What they say about him

THE bald fig­ures of­fer a hint at how good Fabi­an­ski has been, and it is telling that man­ager Car­los Car­val­hal de­scribes him as a calm­ing in­flu­ence for him­self and the rest of the Swans squad.

“Lukasz is a fan­tas­tic goal­keeper,” said Car­val­hal.

“The best keep­ers are the ones that save their team points, and he is one of them. We are win­ning points with him.

“He is one of the rea­sons I am able to be calm in the tech­ni­cal area. I know how good he is, es­pe­cially in the ae­rial part of the game.

“He is very, very good so I can be quiet when the ball is around him.”

Roger Free­stone, an­other great Swans keeper has also given the cur­rent num­ber one his seal of ap­proval.

“I think Lukasz Fabi­an­ski is fan­tas­tic, he has been dif­fer­ent class. I think we would have been dead and buried al­ready with­out him,” he said.

“The amount of saves he makes, his dis­tri­bu­tion, he is top class.

“He is an in­ter­na­tional who works hard and I take my hat off to him.

“The game has moved on a lot since I played, these guys are ath­letes, not foot­ballers. It is com­pletely dif­fer­ent.

“We played in a tough old league, it is noth­ing like it is to­day. You knew you were go­ing to get a bat­ter­ing ev­ery week­end, but Lukasz has been fan­tas­tic and long may it con­tinue.”

colum­nist Leighton James has been an­other to heap praise on Fabi­an­ski, with the for­mer Swans and Wales winger dub­bing the Pole as the best keeper Swansea have ever had.

“For me, he has to be the top goal­keeper. I was al­ways a huge ad­mirer of Noel Dwyer when I first started watch­ing the Swans, but I think Lukasz is bet­ter,” said James.

“Roger Free­stone was also an out­stand­ing keeper for the club in the lower leagues, but Lukasz has been do­ing it week in, week out at the high­est level.

“I would of­fer him what­ever con­tract he wanted to keep him at Swansea, he has been that good.”

> Lukasz Fabi­an­ski pulls off an eye-catch­ing stop for the Swans against Hud­der­s­field last month and in­set, cel­e­brates his club’s goal against Ever­ton on Satur­day

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