The World Cup was a great competition this year and provided a somewhat welcome break from the troubles the Premier League can carry, especially for a West Ham fan. But just as we unwound for the summer months and left the woes of league life behind us, the scouts continued their missions to improve the team for the upcoming campaign.
This year’s international takeaway from the World Cup was Lukasz Fabiański. As he was busy letting in five goals for Poland, the Hammers were deciding to seal the deal and bring him to East London for the 18/19 season.
So not for the first time, the Hammers kicked off the season with a goalkeeper debate – who starts, who takes cup duty, who’s better? It was Fabiański who got the nod against Liverpool but what about for the rest of the season? Who will be between the sticks for the majority of the campaign?
Let’s start with a little disclaimer here: I’m an Adrian fan. Having said that, I haven’t shied away from admitting his wrongdoings, when they do seldom come. The real question is whether Fabiański, bought for £7million from Swansea, offers any more than the Spaniard to the West Ham defence.
During the 17/18 campaign for the South Wales side, which saw them relegated to the Championship with 33 points, Fabiański was ever-present (one of only five stoppers in the league with that accolade). However, the side’s failure to remain in the Premier League couldn’t be put down to the ‘keeper. He made 136 saves for the Swans, the second highest number in the league, earning him the Swansea Player of the Season award.
I realise that’s not a benchmark for success for a goalie – in fact, goalkeeper statistics are probably the least simple numbers to decipher and demonstrate a point with in football. Having said that, some of the numbers in circulation following last season are firmly on the Polish ‘keeper’s side.
Opta produced a mightily complicated formula by which they worked out the best ‘keepers in the league. The formula used ‘xG’ which is defined as ‘expected goals’ which takes in to consideration angle, distance, pressure, obstacles, shot quality and lots more.
Guess what? Our man, Fabiański, came third in the list! Only David de Gea and Nick Pope appeared above him. Adrian was number 13 (unlucky for some), while the already forgotten Joe Hart was down in 22nd position. There were only 23 in the list.
Further to this nice stat on our new ‘keeper, his save percentage, based on shots on goal and saves made, was 71 per cent last season, which compares favourably to most goalkeepers in the league. Adrian played 19 games for West Ham in the 18/19 campaign. His save percentage also happened to be 71 per cent. I’m beginning to think we might just have two decent ‘keepers here!
I briefly touched on how difficult it is to rate a goalkeeper in general and I stand by that. It’s the only position that absolutely relies on the player having their best day. Outfield positions can be far more forgiving.
The benefits that Adrian brings to the club for this season fall under a less statistical category and may make him generally more comfortable behind defenders that he has truly made his teammates. We know what he can do on his best days. We know his bad days are limited.
He has his pitfalls, but that’s my point – you’d be hard pushed to find a shot stopper who doesn’t make the odd gaffe. Adrian, who is a little younger than his new teammate at 31, has time ahead of him to cement his place in the number one jersey, or number 13 as he’d prefer. He’s never faced a backlash or been demotivated. Oh, and he can take a penalty!
I have to admit, my initial reaction to West Ham signing Łukasz Fabiański was one of positivity but I wasn’t bowled over. Having done a little digging on his previous season and beyond it seems that, at the age of 33, he’s reaching a nice peak that the Hammers can certainly benefit from.
Should Pellegrini choose Fabiański as his number one this season, and having been so decisive on his signing, it’s hard to see him not being a consistent starter, Adrian will be the perfect backup; perfect in that he could be the number one ‘keeper. This is healthy competition for both goalies. Adrian was fit and ready when he was called upon last season and I don’t see this season to be any different.
Hopefully he can get a nice cup run under his belt as well. One thing is for sure – we can be a lot more excited about the goalkeeping situation at West Ham in this campaign than during the last.