Lukasz Fabianski looks on curiously as a piece of paper is passed across the table. It shows the 10 goalkeepers who have made the most saves in Europe’s top five leagues over the last five seasons, and the player leading the way is the same man who has just been thanked by the photographer for doing a decent job in goal for his fantasy football team. “Oooh, I’ve never seen a stat like that. That’s cool,” says Fabianski, running his eyes over the names and numbers before pausing for a moment. “But you should also include the most goals conceded in there.”
That last remark, made with the hint of a smile, is typical of Fabianski. Self-deprecating and unassuming, Fabianski is not the sort to get swept along by praise for his performances, or some impressive facts and figures on a sheet of A4. Asked how he interprets those statistics, the 33-year-old breaks into laughter as he replies: “Well, the first thing that comes into my mind is that I’ve been busy!”
Overworked would be another way of putting it after three successive seasons of fighting relegation with Swansea and a challenging start to his West Ham career. Nine games into the new campaign and only Joe Hart has made more saves than Fabianski in the Premier League this season, which partly explains why the Poland international is so popular with fantasy football fans. Fabianski has another theory. “I’m probably one of the cheapest ones,” he says.
West Ham certainly got value for money when they paid £5.5m for Fabianski in the summer, with the positive reaction from their supporters to his signing indicative of how much his reputation has changed over the last few years. After all, it seems unlikely that the transfer would have gone down as well if Fabianski had moved to West Ham straight from Arsenal in 2014. “Yeah, I think that’s fair to say,” Fabianski adds. “Before my last year at Arsenal, when we won the FA Cup, I was really up and down, never really consistent, and never really put my mark on the team. I understand that then there were question marks over my name.”
Looking back, Fabianski says there is a “massive difference” between the goalkeeper who left Arsenal and the one who signed for West Ham. He highlights the influence that Javier García and Tony Roberts, the goalkeeping coaches he worked under at Swansea, had on his career – “They were on me every single day” – and also the way that his mindset totally changed because of regular football.
“When I played for Arsenal, like once per month, you always had this feeling that you had to perform. Then you end up either having a good game or a really bad one [because of the pressure]. And that was the biggest difference. Now there is pressure but in a different way because you focus on the things that, for example, the people are demanding from you, rather than just trying to show yourself, so you kind of flow with the game rather than force the game.”
For more read the guardian