Well ain’t that Fab! Injury curse could sink West Ham’s season

Star goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski is a huge loss and the pressure is on Roberto

West Ham are currently in a fortunate position where injuries are having less of an impact on the season in the long term.

We’re starting to actually build a squad rather than just a set of players that makes sure we have 11 men on the pitch.

But this season could have pivoted for the worse the moment that Lukasz Fabianski got injured against Bournemouth at the end of September.

We now know that the 34-year-old has had successful surgery on his hip but this will put him out of action for a while — potentially until the beginning of 2020.

Having signed Roberto in the summer, he is now thrust into the limelight of the Premier League and is going to have to be pretty impressive to match up to Fabianski’s prowess.

Super Fab kept three clean sheets out of seven games this season, two of which we went on to win, both with a two goal margin. Through August and September this ranked him as the joint top keeper in the league for clean sheets, along with Vicente Guaita and Ederson.

He’s built a solid foundation for the flourishing defence to work from and that’s despite a tricky few fixtures to start the season.

Last season, the Polish ‘keeper was ever-present for the Hammers and kept seven clean sheets. The ball got past him 55 times, one of which was caused by an error of his own.

If we look at the goalkeepers directly above and below us in the league last season, Kasper Schmeichel kept 10 clean sheets at Leicester, conceded 48 and also forced one error. Ben Foster in goal at Watford let in 59 and made two errors.

So all in all, the three ‘keepers were fairly ranked in order of where they finished in the league.

What we can see though is how many additional times Fabianski was called into action as the last line of defence. Making 148 saves, he was top of the pile in the Premier League in terms of stops pulled off. This was seven saves more than second place Neil Etheridge.

Of course, number of saves made only goes to show how many shots were fired at a goalkeeper — it’s not the be all and end all. So what about the percentage of successful saves?

Lukasz’ save success stood at 71.43 per cent last season. Kasper Schmeichel finished on 65.22 per cent while Ben Foster’s success rate was 52.38 per cent.

This stat alone goes to show how much the Hammers’ 10th place finish can be put down to their super ‘keeper. 

But what about a predicted figure for goals saved per game, I hear you cry?

Some incredibly amazing statisticians have done the hard work for me here and I can’t pretend to know how they’ve worked it out. But STATS Perform have ranked goalkeepers on how many more potential goals per game could have been scored, only for the ‘keeper’s abilities.

Super Fab comes out seventh overall for the 18/19 season. It’s been suggested that he stopped 0.1 goals per game from going in (so every 10 games, West Ham would have conceded one more goal without his efforts).

To give more perspective on that, Alisson sits at the top with 0.31 goals prevented per 90 minutes. Propping up the very bottom of the table is Asmir Begovic who played 24 times for Bournemouth last season and scored -0.34 meaning that he conceded 3.4 goals more than he should have every 10 games.

All of this has led Manuel Pellegrini to believe that he has one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League and the fans certainly agree.

Last season’s Hammer of the Year has given defenders confidence. In turn, that gives players self-assurance to go forward and not worry so much about covering for defenders.

There have been high hopes for this season with talk of Europa League football being earned through table position. The potential of being without Fabianski until early 2020 has, in my mind, put a spanner in the works.

The stats show what a great influence the ‘keeper is on this team and we can see for ourselves on a weekly basis as we watch his top saves and important stops. It’s not that we shouldn’t trust Roberto to hold the fort, it’s just going to be very difficult to compare him to the man we’ve trusted since he signed in 2018.

I do think this injury lay-off has potential to change the course of the season. The role of the goalkeeper is highlighted week in, week out and any errors are magnified. There’s a lot of pressure on Roberto’s shoulders. BBM

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