The 2014/15 Premier League season has been one of surprise packages. Stewart Downing has been like a clichéd new signing for West Ham after Sam Allardyce's decision to deploy a 4-3-1-2 formation. Elsewhere, Victor Moses is proving his worth for Stoke City, while Craig Gardner has gone about his business efficiently in the heart of the West Brom midfield.
In fact, if one were to create a 'Surprise Package XI', the goalkeeper spot would likely be sewn up already. Lukasz Fabianksi regularly played second fiddle to compatriot Wojciech Szczesny during his time with Arsenal and a move away from the Emirates over the summer came as little shock. Having overseen Michel Vorm's departure to Tottenham, Swansea City needed a new number one and the Pole has come in and made a starting spot his own.
The Swans' 2-0 win over Leicester City on Saturday evening, a fixture forgotten in the midst of the excitement of El Clásico, lifted Swansea up to 6th in the Premier League. It was a welcome victory, with the south Wales side having failed to win any of the five league games prior to the Foxes' visit. The encounter also marked Fabianski's fourth Premier League clean sheet of the season, only Fraser Forster (5) has kept more in England's top tier in the 2014/15 campaign.
Only teammates Wilfried Bony (8.53) and Jefferson Montero (7.91) secured better WhoScored ratings than Fabianski (7.47) in Swansea's weekend victory, with the 29-year-old ensuring none of Leicester's 4 shots on target hit the back of the net. This season, only Gylfi Sigurdsson (7.29) and Ashley Williams (7.26) have a better rating then Fabianski (7.15) of all Swansea players, while the shotstopper's score is the best of all goalkeepers to register at least 200 minutes of league action this term.
It's been a highly impressive start to life at the Liberty Stadium for the former Arsenal number two, who perhaps was not given the credit he deserved in the past. Used sparingly, largely in domestic cup competition, Fabianski made just 23 league appearances in the previous five seasons and failed to feature in England's top tier at all in the 2011/12 season amongst that run.
Nicknamed 'Flappy Handski' for his alleged inability to command his penalty area and claim crosses, Fabianski has silenced his critics with a series of assured performances behind the Swansea defence. He has, in fact, claimed eight more crosses (30) than his nearest Premier League rival (Thibaut Courtois with 22), while only Joe Hart (9) has made more punches clear than the Swansea 'keeper (8), highlighting how authoritative a presence he has become in the 18-yard box.
His average of 3.3 cross claims per game is a significant improvement on former Swansea number 1 Vorm (1.2) in the Premier League last season, and centre-back pairing Williams and Federico Fernández must be thrilled at Fabianski's assertiveness in between the sticks. Williams praised this area of his game, mentioning after the 2-0 win over Leicester: "The pleasing thing is that he comes for stuff when we're under pressure and that's something maybe we haven't had that much at Swansea before. I think he's been a very good signing."
Fabianski's arrival has not only solidified the Swans defence, but is likely to have eased Fernández's transition into the Premier League. Adjusting to the rigours of a new league is easier said than done, but the goalkeeper's performances have helped the Argentine through what could have been a tough start in English football.
Perhaps Fabianski's best quality remains his shot stopping ability. His command of his area has improved following his switch to Swansea, yet the standard of his reflexes has not dropped one iota. Only a handful of goalkeepers have made more saves than Fabianski (25) in the Premier League this season, while he boasts both 'shot stopping' and 'saving long shots' as statistically calculated strengths from WhoScored.
His displays this season have not been without merit either. Fabianski is one of only 10 players to receive two WhoScored man of the match awards in the Premier League this season, with both of those coming in positive results against Burnley and Sunderland. While he has been the butt of jokes in the past, Fabianski is proving just how good a goalkeeper he is as Garry Monk's side continue to impress.
As Vorm's performances were on the decline, his departure need not have concerned the Swansea faithful with Fabianski showcasing his talent to the watching world. Having finally returned to winning ways, the Swans will now look to kick start a good run of form that has the potential to improve their chances of securing a European berth, something that seemed unlikely prior to the season.
Fabianski has played a key role in the bright start to the campaign and Swansea's supporters will be hoping the Poland international can maintain his form between now and the end of the season.Suggest a correction