Blind Hammer analyses Cheikhou Kouyate’s World Cup.
Cheikhou Kouyate’s World Cup has not gone to plan. During Senegal’s Qualification he was ever present. He had earnt a promotion to Captain. The 2018 World Cup was envisaged as his proudest moment, the pinnacle of his football achievements.
As Captain he faced the media to stress how important the competition was.
“”The World Cup is a competition that takes place every four years and it is not given to everyone to take part, we have the chance now to participate and we will prepare well to please the Senegalese people. We want to write our own story.”
Kouyate’s status as Captain and his evident poise in front of the media has not, however, persuaded Senegalese Manager, Aliou Cisse, that he merited a start either against Poland or Japan. Kouyate is not reported as suffering from or carrying any injury.
Kouyate appeared only as a late substitute, 7 minutes from time, to help Senegal resist late pressure in their victory against Poland. After initially struggling, manhandling a Polish attacker, Kouyate made an important tackle to help Senegal preserve their lead.
This did not persuade Cisse to start Kouyate against Japan. Kouyate was however, introduced after 67 minutes to help counter act Japan’s midfield dominance. He could not, though, prevent what was, in Senegalese eyes, a disappointing draw.
Kouyate’s introduction into midfield was interesting. It was confidently predicted before the World Cup that he would, unlike his role at West Ham, play a key role in the centre of the Senegal Defence. This was in no small part due to Aliou Cisse’s desire to build a midfield around the undoubted talents of Everton’s Idrissa Gueye. Gueye had achieved outstanding performance ratings in what was an awkward season for Everton.
Yet Aliou Cisse has, so far, resisted any opportunity to deploy Kouyate in this alternative defensive role, preferring the partnership of Salif Sane and Kalidou Koulibaly.
This presents a worry for West Ham. If Kouyate is not performing at a sufficient level to force his way into the Senegal team, it becomes questionable as to whether he still has the capabilities to dominate Premiership Midfield battels in the way he once did.
There may be a ray of light for Kouyate though.
Aliou Cisse has a ruthless streak. As well as dropping his captain for the first 2 games he took no prisoners after Senegal’s disappointing draw against Japan. He expressed dissatisfaction that Senegal had twice conceding an equaliser. He had no compunction in pointing the finger of blame at Kalidou Koulibaly and Salif Sane. He stressed the need for rigour and concentration.
The extent to which Kouyate has fallen out of favour will be illuminated by Cisse’s selections for their final game against Colombia. Cisse lambasting of his team’s defensive performance seems to suggest that there is at least a possibility of a recall for Kouyate. There may just be a chance that he can make a belated contribution to a Senegal cause which may finally kick start his World Cup. This ironically may come most significantly in a knock out game against England. If Kouyate can reclaim his place and confidence we may just have the player back we once admired. At worse a positive World Cup legacy will enhance any incoming Transfer fee. West Ham supporters should be keeping a keen eye on the performances of Senegal and Kouyate in particular. COYI
With England’s upcoming match against Belgium on Thursday, here’s a look back at the Hammers’ Belgian contingent.
Francois van der Elst
Francois Van der Elst was born in Opwijk, Belgium on the 1st December 1954 and joined Anderlecht at the age of 15, winning two national titles and four cups between 1971 and 1980. He also won the European Cup Winners’ Cup twice, in 1976 and 1978. The first of these finals was against West Ham United with the 21-year-old ‘Swat’, as he was known in his home country, scoring twice. Van der Elst scored 20 goals in 43 European games for Anderlecht and was widely regarded as the best forward in the Belgian league.
At the age of 25, Van der Elst left Anderlecht to sign for New York Cosmos where he played with the likes of Dutch midfielder Johan Neeskens and German legend Franz Beckenbauer. He also helped Belgium to second place in the 1980 European Championships and was part of the World Cup squad at Spain ’82. He scored 14 goals in 44 appearances for the Belgian national side having made his debut on 31st October 1973 in a 2-0 win over Norway played on his home ground at Anderlecht. Eight of his caps were won during his time at West Ham, with his final appearance for his country coming as a Lokeren player on 9th November 1983.
After a year in the States, the 27-year-old Van der Elst moved to England and to West Ham United for a fee of £400,000. He made his debut on 16th January 1982 as a substitute in a 1-0 defeat at Brighton in the First Division and scored his first goal for the club in his sixth appearance, in a 2-1 loss at Stoke on the 6th February 1982. That was the first of a spell that saw the Belgian score five goals in ten matches before the end of March 1982.
His only full campaign in claret and blue was a memorable one – he played 47 games, scored 12 goals and the Hammers finished eighth in the First Division. He notched four goals in as many games between 11th September and 2nd October as the Hammers thrashed Birmingham 5-0 at home, won 2-1 at West Brom, beat Man City 4-1 and won 3-2 at Arsenal. ‘Frankie’ also scored a hat-trick in the 3-3 League Cup fourth round draw at Notts County on 7th December 1982.
Frankie scored in each of his last two matches at the Boleyn Ground, in a 2-0 triumph over Notts County on 7th May 1983 and in a 3-1 defeat to Arsenal three days later. His final Hammers appearance came at the age of 28 in a 4-2 win at Coventry on the 14th May 1983. After 70 appearances and 17 goals in all competitions for West Ham United, Van der Elst returned to his homeland, signing for Lokeren, with whom he stayed until his retirement from playing at the age of 30 in 1985 due to a fractured leg.
My video below shows two of van der Elst’s 17 goals for the Hammers, scored against Tottenham (November 1982) and Watford (April 1983), as well as his two goals for Anderlecht against the Irons in the 1976 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final.
After his career, Van der Elst owned a snooker and billiards bar in his hometown of Opwijk. He still attended Hammers matches on occasion and had close ties with the Belgian Hammers supporters group. On New Year’s Day 2017 he collapsed and was resuscitated by a medical emergency team before being placed in an induced coma. After a period in intensive care, Francois van der Elst eventually passed away from the sustained heart damage on 11th January 2017 at the age of 62.
Ruud Boffin was born on 5th November 1987 in Sint-Truiden and began his career with Racing Genk’s youth team before moving to Dutch club PSV in 2005. He never made a senior appearance for PSV and instead began his professional career on loan at FC Eindhoven, making 20 appearances during the 2007/08 season. Boffin moved to MVV Maastricht in 2008, making 64 appearances, before spending the second half of the 2009/10 season on loan at VVV-Venlo, with whom he played five matches.
The 22-year-old Boffin signed for Avram Grant’s West Ham on 1st September 2010 on a two-year deal for an undisclosed nominal fee following a trial at the club. He would act as cover for England goalkeeper Robert Green. Boffin made his Hammers debut on 18th December 2010 in a 1-1 draw at Blackburn – his point-blank save to keep out Ryan Nelsen’s 51st-minute shot deserved better than for the ball to find its way past him via the knee of the Blackburn defender as he swung his leg at the loose ball. Junior Stanislas would equalise for the Irons with 12 minutes left but a point would not lift the Hammers off the bottom of the table, a position in which they would ultimately end the 2010/11 season.
Boffin’s two appearances under Sam Allardyce in the 2011/12 season would both end in cup exits at the first hurdle. He played in a 2-1 home defeat to Aldershot in the first round of the League Cup on 24th August 2011 – the Hammers led 1-0, again through a Stanislas goal, but Aldershot’s equaliser would come via a rebound after a Boffin save, by which time the Irons were down to ten men after Callum McNaughton’s red card. The Shots won the tie in the 89th minute. Boffin’s final appearance for the Hammers would be a 1-0 FA Cup third round defeat at Sheffield Wednesday on 8th January 2012, the Owls scoring their winner with only three minutes remaining. After just three appearances in his two years at West Ham United, and having found his playing opportunities infrequent due to the form of Green and the signing of Stephen Henderson in March, Boffin’s contract was cancelled by mutual consent in April 2012.
Boffin signed for Turkish side Eskisehirspor in May 2012 and made 175 appearances for the club. He scored from a free-kick inside his own half on 25th September 2016 in a 2-0 win against Umraniyespor (see video below). Boffin signed for another Turkish club, Antalyaspor, in 2017. Now aged 30, he has made 17 appearances for the club to date.
Watching Germany at the World Cup can indeed be the kind of experience you’d normally associate with sitting at London Stadium watching West Ham.
Depending on who you’re sitting next to or behind of course. In this case it was me sitting in my brother’s living room, watching the game against Sweden with him and half of my nephew.
I’m saying half because he wasn’t paying much attention to the football really, choosing to focus on reading another chapter of whatever part of the Harry Potter series he’s currently battling with instead – having read them myself I know it can be very hard to put the books down with all those bloody cliffhangers at the end of every chapter!
The game had several cliffhangers of its own in store and my brother and I agreed throughout that only a win would do in terms of keeping Germany in the tournament.
A very telling sign that my brother is getting back to normal health is the way he was talking and acting during the game, in a fairly miserable, pessimistic, Eeyore-style manner, the kind of which you sometimes get at West Ham home games too.
It’s just the way my brother is, always was, will be forevermore. He moans about the neighbour’s cat taking a short-cut through his garden, he moans about the way other people drive, too fast, too slow, wrong colour of car, in short: He seems to rather enjoy finding things to moan about – and Germany’s performances at the World Cup so far have been a fountain of inspiration for him, feeding his complainy side.
Of course my brother was right with a lot of stuff he said about the game against Sweden, moaning about the Germany players’ body language, their lack of invention, their predictability, their tendency to overdo the sideways and backwards passing, the looming shame of potentially going out of the tournament at the hands of Sweden etc.
Again, I couldn’t really argue much with him as he was spot on, but the moaning was relentless (it must run in the family), he kept repeating the same phrases, but of course all of that misery was wiped out with one beautifully executed freekick in injury time. Take a bow Toni Kroos!
It was the kind of goal worthy of winning any game and knowing how tournaments have gone for Germany in the past, who knows how far Germany will go now ?
If you ask me, not much further than the quarterfinals. I just hope we won’t have to play England at any point as that would require me to stay away from the blog for a while, especially should England win…:-))
On the West Ham transfer front things have been awfully quiet, with a number of rumours, yes, but apart from Fabianski being confirmed not much else came to fruition really.
It looks though as if the weeks-long Felipe Anderson will he-won’t he saga will finally come to an end now one way or another.
Rumour is a deal has finally been agreed with West Ham paying up to 40 million Euros for him, with a 20% sell-on clause tagged onto the deal.
If true, it’s an expensive acquisition for sure, but one well worth pursuing if he indeed is the cornerstone of what Manuel Pellegrini has in mind for this club. I cannot claim to having seen a lot of games in which Anderson took part, but from what I can gather from the usual sources online he is pacy and a great team player, working hard for the cause and being more interested in setting up opportunities and goals for his teammates rather than doing it all for himself.
Of course it’s frustrating if a transfer takes ages to materialise, but once you start dealing with big, professional clubs there is bound to be a staring contest, trying to determine who loses his cool and blinks first!
It’s a game of poker really and while you don’t want to pay over the odds, sometimes there’s no way around it if you really fancy the player!
Bringing in a technically gifted and quick team player like Anderson sounds promising enough and it might actually also serve as a springboard for other quality additions following suit. As much as I like to read about the odd transfer rumour, I am still fairly old-school though about the way transfers should be negotiated and announced. I still like the behind-closed-doors approach and love transfers that jump out at you like a rabbit from a hat, basically out of nowhere, and I absolutely wouldn’t mind if that was the way in which MP, Husillos and Sullivan were dealing with transfer matters from now on.
It may not give us quite as many rumours as before to talk about, but it might just result in bringing us the players we actually need – I know where my priorities lie in that respect.
Another player potentially arriving in Stratford from Italy could be Stefano Sturaro, a versatile player from Juventus, with 25 years still at a great age with his peak years hopefully ahead of him. The chap mainly plays as a defensive midfielder (hooray!!!), but has also featured as attacking midfielder on the left or even full back on the right.
He couldn’t nail down a regular starting place at Juventus though, but even bearing that in mind he could still be a good fit for West Ham.
His main qualities appear to be maintaining possession of the ball and supporting his defenders which is the key attributes I would want from a defensive midfielder.
I’m a big believer of having a balanced squad and for that to become a reality you also need players who do the dirty or the unspectacular work that tends to go unnoticed far too often. You cannot have a team with ten Arnautovic-style players. Nor ten Lanzinis or ten Mark Nobles. You need to have a bit of everything and should we really get Felipe Anderson then having someone like Sturaro might just be another missing link for the jigsaw that MP and Husillos are currently trying to solve.
Italy seems to be a popular hunting ground for us this summer. Apparently we have been talking to Lazio at such lengths that we may also pick another player from them, Lukaku. No, that’s not our nemesis striker with the knack of scoring vital golas against West Ham, Romelu, but rather his brother Jordan whose main job is preventing goals rather than scoring them which comes as no surprise as he is another defensive minded midfielder.
Built like a brick cabin designed for housing a khazi or two, he looks like a player born to showcase his skills on pitches in England. He sounds like the perfect complimentary player to Sturaro as Lukaku is a decent dribbler and passer of the ball. Both players are rumoured to be available at reasonable (in today’s market) prices.
We need to get away from signing players with a famous name or those who used to be great at other clubs years ago.
Rather than that I hope that MP will establish what kind of players are required and then sign those guys accordingly, regardless whether they come from a league we rarely watch or have a name most fans have never heard before. In this respect I am fairly optimistic MP and Husillos can deliver.
We shall have a much changed team for next season and that alone will make the upcoming season one to look forward to with eager anticipation and excitement.
Closing out with the Concordia update, the club have announced that their squad for next season is complete now. 22 players will try to make amends and give the fans better football and more points on the board next season. The two goalkeepers remain the same, apart from that TEN new players will try to force their way into the starting XI.
It sounds like a decent mixture of experienced heads and young lads from lower divisions who will try to make the step up to Oberliga level.
There is also a young defender who has been promoted from the U23s which is nice to see and of course I will try to watch the U23s as well whenever I can.
The U23s have been promoted as well and they will now play the majority of their away games in places not far from my brother’s house, so he is bound to join me on a few occasions. As long as he doesn’t moan quite as often as when watching Germany play, he is more than welcome. Then again I won’t mind too much anyway, as long as the Cordi boys end their games in similar fashion as Toni Kroos did on Saturday night…:-))
Welcome to the eighth in a series of articles designed for international matches – a look back at former Hammers players who wore the Three Lions of England.
Today, as England prepare to face Panama in their second match of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, we look back at another true legend of West Ham United Football Club – Martin Peters. Born in Plaistow on 8th November 1943, Peters came through the ranks at his local club to sign as an apprentice under manager Ted Fenton in 1959. He made his first team debut on Good Friday, 20th April 1962 in a 4-1 home victory against Cardiff and played five games in the final weeks of the season as the Hammers finished eighth. He scored his first goal on 8th September of that year in a 6-1 win at Manchester City.
Peters’ versatility was such that he played in every position for the Hammers – including in goal in just his third game for the club when replacing the injured Brian Rhodes in a 3-0 defeat at Cardiff. Peters made 39 appearances (scoring nine goals) in 1962/63 and 36 (scoring three) in 1963/64, but would not be involved as the Hammers won the 1964 FA Cup. West Ham finished 12th and 14th in 1963 and 1964 respectively. He would not miss out on another Wembley triumph twelve months later though, as the Hammers defeated 1860 Munich by two goals to nil to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965. Peters was also voted as the Hammer of the Year at the end of this season, having scored six goals in 47 appearances as the Irons finished ninth.
A further Final followed in 1966 when the Irons reached the League Cup Final, in those days played over two legs. Peters scored in the second game, but West Brom triumphed 5-3 on aggregate. West Ham finished 12th with Peters scoring 17 goals in 60 matches in 1965/66; he was runner-up to Sir Geoff Hurst in the 1966 Hammer of the Year voting; the pair, along with captain Bobby Moore, bounced back from the League Cup disappointment to lead England to World Cup glory.
Peters made his debut for England at the age of 22 in a 2-0 win over Yugoslavia at Wembley on 4th May 1966, two months before the start of the World Cup. He scored on his second England match, in a 3-0 win against Finland in Helsinki the following month. He was named in the squad for the Finals but missed out on playing in the opening game against Uruguay. He started the next match, a 2-0 win against Mexico, and kept his place for the rest of the tournament. Replicating a move tried and tested in east London, Peters provided the cross for Hurst’s near-post header which settled the quarter-final tie against Argentina (Peters is pictured below in this game) and scored what seemed set to be the winning goal in the Final himself before Wolfgang Weber levelled in the dying embers of normal time, Hurst going on to be the hat-trick hero in extra-time.
Peters scored 16 goals in 49 matches in 1966/67 as the Hammers finished 16th and followed that up with 18 goals in 46 appearances in 1967/68, with West Ham finishing 12th. By the summer of ’68 Peters had taken his tally of England caps to 21, scoring a further six goals against Northern Ireland, Wales, the Soviet Union, Scotland, Spain (in the Bernabeu) and Sweden.
The 1968/69 season would be Peters’ most prolific for the Hammers, as he notched an incredible 24 goals from 48 matches including a hat-trick in a 4-0 home win over West Brom in August and a stunning volley past Peter Shilton in a 4-0 home victory over Leicester in November (included in my video below). The Irons finished eighth. Peters was nicknamed ‘The Ghost’ for his ability to drift undetected into the penalty area and it was around this period that England manager Sir Alf Ramsey stated that the midfielder was “ten years ahead of his time”. Peters scored three goals in the 1969 Home Championships matches, one against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park and two against Scotland at Wembley where doubles from Peters and Hurst gave England a 4-1 win over the Auld Enemy.
1969/70 saw Peters score seven goals in 34 games for the Hammers – however, in March 1970, at the age of 26, he was on the move to north London, as rivals Tottenham paid a world record fee of £200,000 (including Jimmy Greaves) for his services. His last goals for the Hammers came at Hillsborough on 10th January 1970, when he scored twice in a 3-2 win; his final match for the club was a 0-0 home draw with Ipswich on 14th March 1970. Peters had scored 100 goals in 364 appearances in all competitions for West Ham United.
My video below contains nine of Peters’ 100 goals for the Hammers – against Olympiakos (away, December 1965), Sheffield United (home, February 1966), Stoke (home, October 1967), Tottenham (home, September 1968), Chelsea (away, September 1968), QPR (home, November 1968), Leicester (home, November 1968), Derby (home, November 1969) and Tottenham (away, December 1969).
Peters’ run of success would continue at White Hart Lane as he won the League Cup in 1971 and 1973 and the UEFA Cup in 1972. He scored his last England goal on 19th May 1973 in a 1-0 win over Scotland at Wembley and played his last game for his country against Scotland too, in a 2-0 defeat at Hampden Park. Peters won 67 England caps, scoring 20 goals and captained his country on four occasions.
My video below shows 16 of Peters’ 20 England goals, scored against West Germany (World Cup, July 1966), the Soviet Union (home, December 1967), Scotland (away, February 1968), Spain (away, May 1968), Sweden (home, May 1968), Northern Ireland (away, May 1969), Scotland (two goals, home, May 1969), Northern Ireland (home, April 1970), Colombia (two goals, away, May 1970), West Germany (World Cup, June 1970), East Germany (home, November 1970), Malta (away, February 1971), Scotland (home, May 1971), and Scotland again (home, May 1973).
At the age of 31, Peters left Tottenham in March 1975 for a fee of £50,000 to join former Hammers team-mate John Bond, who was manager of Second Division Norwich, and went on to help the club secure promotion to the top flight in his first few months at the club. The Canaries claimed 10th spot in the First Division in 1975/76 and remained a top flight side under Bond for the rest of Peters’ five-year spell in East Anglia. Peters scored 50 goals in 232 matches for the Canaries and was twice voted the club’s Player of the Year. He left Carrow Road to become player-coach at Sheffield United in August 1980 – Norwich were relegated the season after he left.
Peters ended his professional career with total statistics of 220 goals from 882 games when departing Bramall Lane in June 1981. He later worked in the insurance business and the motor industry and has spent time on the board at Tottenham and as a matchday host at Upton Park. Peters, now 74 and sadly suffering from Alzheimer’s, was acknowledged with the Lifetime Achievement Award by West Ham United in 2015. He is pictured below with Sir Geoff Hurst during the final season at Upton Park.
England face Panama this lunchtime in their opening match of the 2018 World Cup – it will be the first meeting between the two nations. The last time England beat opposition from the CONCACAF federation was in the 2006 World Cup when they met Shaka Hislop’s Trinidad and Tobago on 15th June 2006, the Three Lions’ second game in Group B. Nelly Furtado was number one with ‘Maneater’, The Omen topped the UK box office and the BBC announced that Billie Piper would leave her role as Rose Tyler on Doctor Who at the end of the second series the following month.
Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England took the lead with seven minutes to go courtesy of Peter Crouch. Real Madrid midfielder and England captain David Beckham’s cross found 25-year-old Lverpool striker Crouch rising at the back post to power his header beyond West Ham’s Shaka Hislop in the Trinidad and Tobago goal. It was the sixth of his 22 England goals, in the ninth of his 42 caps.
Hislop’s nemesis from the FA Cup Final the month before, Liverpool’s 26-year-old midfielder Steven Gerrard scored England’s second in this 2-0 win, hitting a powerful left-footed drive beyond Hislop and into the corner of the net in the last minute of the match.
England: Paul Robinson (Tottenham), Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Rio Ferdinand (Man Utd), John Terry (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Arsenal), David Beckham (Real Madrid), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Michael Owen (Newcastle), Peter Crouch (Liverpool).
Subs: Aaron Lennon (Tottenham) for Carragher; Wayne Rooney (Man Utd) for Owen; Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough) for Joe Cole.
Trinidad and Tobago: Shaka Hislop (West Ham), Carlos Edwards (Luton), Brent Sancho (Gillingham), Dennis Lawrence (Wrexham), Cyd Gray (San Juan Jabloteh), Chris Birchall (Port Vale), Densill Theobald (Falkirk), Aurtis Whitley (San Juan Jabloteh), Stern John (Coventry), Kenwyne Jones (Southampton), Dwight Yorke (Sydney).
Subs: Cornell Glen (LA Galaxy) for Jones; Evans Wise (Waldhof Mannheim) for Theobald.
There are just some players that a football supporter doesn’t rate. We’ve all got them; players we’ve seen playing for other clubs that seem to live up to our low expectations every time we see them play. Players who we are grateful are testing the nerves of supporters at other clubs, rather than at the Hammers.
One of those players for me has been Lukasz Fabianski. I’ve been watching the Polish goalkeeper since he occasionally broke into the side at Arsenal and have never been impressed. When watching Champions League matches with friends or family, I’d often see his name on the team-sheet and confidently proclaim that he would drop a cross or come off his line at a set-piece and get hopelessly nowhere near the ball. Invariably, he did and seemingly often he would be at fault for a goal.
To be fair, he was a young goalkeeper learning his trade in those days. And, while on a conciliatory approach, he does arrive in east London on the back of what appears to be a successful season for him individually – even if it was a disaster for his team. He won Swansea’s Player of the Year award in 2017/18 – not an onerous task given the departure of Gylfi Sigurdsson who had won it the previous two seasons, the Icelandic midfielder having done much to help the club survive previously. Fabianski was also second in last season’s ‘Most Saves’ table with 137, behind only Jack Butland’s 144. I thought I’d take this opportunity to provide readers with a run-through of his career to date…
Lukasz Fabianski was born in Kostrzyn nad Odra, western Poland on 18th April 1985; after starting his career with Polonia Slubice, Fabianski joined the noted independent football academy MSP Szamotuly at age 14 before signing for Lech Poznan in 2004/05. In the winter of 2005, Fabianski was signed by Legia Warsaw, where he competed with Artur Boruc for a place in the team. He made his debut at the age of 19 in a 4-1 Polish Cup win over Arka Gdynia on 6th October 2004. Fabianski took over the goalkeeping gloves after Boruc was sold to Celtic, making his league debut on 24th July 2005 against the same team as he had on his cup debut, Arka Gdynia, in a 0-0 draw. He helped Legia win the Polish league championship in the 2005/06 season, conceding 22 goals in 32 matches and keeping 19 clean sheets. Fabianski’s performances for his club soon saw him making his debut for Poland in a friendly against Saudi Arabia on 29th March 2006. He has since won 45 caps for his country, playing four of his country’s five matches at Euro 2016. He is currently in Russia as reserve goalkeeper to Wojciech Szczesny, who played less than half of Juventus’ matches last season. The 2006/07 campaign saw Fabianski concede 37 goals in 30 matches, keeping eight clean sheets. His performances led to him being awarded the ‘Football Oscar’ for the best goalkeeper in the Ekstraklasa in both the 2005/06 and 2006/07 seasons.
In May 2007, the 22-year-old Fabianski signed for Arsenal in a £2.1m deal. He made his debut in a 2-0 home win over Newcastle in the League Cup third round on 25th September 2007 and would remain the Gunners’ goalkeeper for that competition that season until a disastrous 5-1 defeat to arch-rivals Tottenham in the second leg of the semi-finals, which saw Spurs progress to the Final 6-2 on aggregate. He made his Premier League debut in a 6-2 win at Derby on 28th April 2008. He conceded ten goals in eight games in 2007/08, keeping four clean sheets.
Fabianski was described as “much-maligned” by the BBC in 2008/09 after a horror show against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final gifted the west Londoners a place in the Final. With Arsenal leading 1-0, he was beaten at his near post by Florent Malouda for the equaliser and unnecessarily came haring out of his area with seven minutes to go only for Didier Drogba to beat him to the ball and give Chelsea victory. Three days later he conceded four at Anfield in a 4-4 draw with Liverpool and again conceded four a month later in a 4-1 home defeat to Chelsea. Fabianski made 18 appearances in 2008/09, conceding 16 goals and keeping ten clean sheets. He was Arsenal’s goalkeeper for domestic cups but, alongside their FA Cup exit to Chelsea, they were beaten 2-0 at Burnley in the League Cup.
2009/10 again saw Fabianski in the role of Arsenal’s cup ‘keeper – they were knocked out of the FA Cup at Stoke, losing 3-1 in the fourth round and dumped out of the League Cup in the quarter-finals after a 3-0 defeat at Man City. He also played two matches in the Champions League, scoring an own goal in a 2-1 defeat at Porto in the first leg of the last 16 tie – with the ball coming square across his six-yard box, Fabianski palmed the ball into his own net. Later in the same game he picked up a backpass by Sol Campbell with Porto scoring their second from the resulting free-kick. Arsenal won the second leg 5-0 to progress to the quarter-finals, with Fabianski left out of the side. He made ten appearances in 2009/10, conceding 16 goals and keeping just two clean sheets.
Fabianski enjoyed a stronger start to 2010/11 but would only play one domestic cup game, in a 4-1 win at Tottenham in the League Cup third round. Ironically, Arsenal would reach a Cup Final without him, although they lost in the same competition to Birmingham at Wembley. He played in five of Arsenal’s six Champions League group stage matches, and also made 14 Premier League appearances, but a shoulder injury picked up in January kept him out for the rest of the season. He made 20 appearances in 2010/11, conceding 22 goals and keeping five clean sheets.
2011/12 was a season to forget for Fabianski as, despite recovering from his injury in time for the season’s start, he only made six appearances, conceding eight goals and failing to keep a clean sheet. He was once again Arsenal’s domestic cup custodian but they were beaten 2-0 at Sunderland in the FA Cup fifth round and lost 1-0 at home to Manchester City in the League Cup quarter-finals. 2012/13 was a similar tale of woe for the Pole as shoulder, ankle and rib injuries restricted him to just five appearances, all in the Premier League or Champions League, conceding three goals and keeping two clean sheets.
Fabianski made 11 appearances for Arsenal in his final season at the club, finally reaching a Cup Final as his penalty shoot-out saves in the semi-final against Wigan (including one from Jack Collison) sent the Gunners to the FA Cup Final. Arsenal won the FA Cup following a 3-2 win after extra-time in the Final against Hull. Arsenal found themselves 2-0 down and Hull also hit the post before the Gunners came back to win – not without a final Fabianski scare though as, 3-2 up and with five minutes left of extra-time, Fabianski came racing out of his goal towards the touchline only to be beaten by Sone Aluko, who saw his effort from distance drift agonisingly past the far post. Fabianski conceded 11 goals in his 11 games in 2013/14, keeping three clean sheets.
In his seven years at Arsenal, Fabianski made 78 appearances, conceding 86 goals and keeping 26 clean sheets. He signed for Swansea at the age of 29 on a Bosman free transfer in May 2014. He made his debut in a 2-1 win at Manchester United on the opening day of the 2014/15 season. He received the first red card of his career at Upton Park in December 2014, again racing unnecessarily from his goal to impede Diafra Sakho. The Hammers, already 2-1 up through an Andy Carroll double, went on to win the match 3-1. He made 38 appearances in league and cup in 2014/15, conceding 46 goals and keeping 13 clean sheets.
2015/16 saw more goals conceded and less clean sheets as Swansea dropped from eighth the previous campaign to 12th. Fabianski played 37 Premier League games, conceding 51 goals and keeping nine clean sheets. He made four errors which led directly to goals – only fellow Pole Artur Boruc, at Bournemouth, made more. The exact same pattern continued in 2016/17 – more goals conceded, less clean sheets, second in the league for errors leading to goals. This time Fabianski again made 37 league appearances, conceding 69 goals and keeping eight clean sheets. He made three errors leading directly to goals, second only to West Ham’s Darren Randolph, as Swansea dropped again to 15th.
Last season was undoubtedly a better season for Fabianski on a personal level, even though his club were relegated. He made 38 appearances, conceded 56 goals, kept nine clean sheets and made no errors leading directly to goals. Since signing for Swansea in 2014 though, he has made ten errors which led directly to goals – double the amount of Adrian in the same time period. During his time at Swansea he made 150 appearances, conceded 222 goals and kept 39 clean sheets.
Speaking personally, if we have signed Fabianski to be a back-up goalkeeper to Adrian and/or to provide competition, I think it’s a very good signing. He has Premier League, Champions League and international experience and is a good addition to the squad. However, if he’s been brought in to be parachuted into the number one spot, I have to say I have my doubts. He is a very impressive shot-stopper, as supported by his excellent ‘number of saves’ statistic but, over the years, is prone to some major errors on crosses, decision-making and with the ball at his feet. I appreciate that the same criticisms can be levelled at Adrian but I just don’t see Fabianski as an improvement. Fabianski also has a touch of the Roy Carroll about him, in that he tends to parry balls back into the danger area rather than push the ball wide of his goalmouth. I’m sure many of us can also recall hoping Andy Carroll would be fit whenever we’ve played Swansea in recent seasons as Fabianski and his defence never looked comfortable dealing with that aerial threat.
From a transfer strategy perspective, signing Fabianski with the view of starting him will unsettle Adrian. The position of goalkeeper is like no other in a squad – centre-halves, central midfielders and strikers have more opportunities to play. There are more of them on the pitch, they get more injuries so their replacements get more game time and it is easier to drop an outfield player if they are out of form. It’s different for a goalkeeper – if you’re out of the side, you probably won’t play again for months. At 31, I can appreciate that Adrian may seek a move and don’t agree with those who may criticise him for wanting to move for a better chance of first-team football – he would be protecting himself and his career and has been messed about enough of late with inadequate replacements. The Spanish stopper has one year remaining on his contract. If it does become clear that Fabianski has been bought to start, then we may find ourselves in the position of having to buy a second goalkeeper.
If we were going to sign a new starting goalkeeper, I would personally have preferred it to be someone who would be a clear and obvious improvement. Nevertheless, as with all other new signings, I wish Lukasz Fabianski all the very best during his time at West Ham United.
To finish on a positive note: firstly, well done to the board for signing their first goalkeeper for more than a nominal fee since taking over the club eight and a half years ago. The last goalkeeper we spent more than a million on was Robert Green back in 2006, who arrived for a £2m fee and went on to become a Hammers hero. Since the current owners took over, they have brought in Jussi Jaaskelainen, Adrian and Darren Randolph on free transfers and Manuel Almunia and Joe Hart on loan, while Ruud Boffin and Stephen Henderson were signed for nominal fees. As a second positive to end with, here are some of Lukasz Fabianski’s saves from the 2017/18 season.