For much of the season, the plaudits for West Ham’s successful season have been taken by Coufal, Soucek and Rice, although virtually every player has been involved in the improvement.
In particular, the form of the players mentioned has meant that we have been extremely solid defensively this season. There’s one position which is easy to overlook, however.
Phil Parkes, Ludek Miklosko, Rob Green – these goalkeepers have gone down in West Ham folklore. Perhaps Polish international Lukasz Fabianski’s form for us means he’ll be joining this list?
Mr. Consistency between the sticks, he’s been well worth the £7m that we shelled out for him in June 2018, and the defence has obviously benefitted from his presence – witness what happened when injury forced him out of the side, and we had Roberto in goal, with those costly errors against seemingly half the Premier League.
Yes, he’s good and a real asset to our team. However, it would also be fair to say that Fabianski isn’t one of the top goalkeepers in the Premier League.
Think of the likes of Ederson, Alisson and Lloris – these are all shot-stoppers who are known for being best-in-class. Ederson in particular is the closest you’ll get to the complete package, being known for his passing ability and excellent judgement in the penalty area, although Allison runs him close.
Fabianski is also 35 years old now whereas the likes of the aforementioned are in their mid- to-late 20s.
He’s signed a one-year exten- sion to his contract, which is a sensible move by the club, but it’s unsurprising that the rumour mill has turned to who might replace Fabianski when he moves on. What would life be like after Super Fab?
Before you read this and start saying the words ‘Darren Randolph’, I love him but he is 33 years old himself.
And whilst a reliable shot-stopper and Republic of Ireland international, he is the backup to Fabianski for a reason. He is not the goalkeeper of the future that West Ham will be looking for.
One player who we have been linked with is Sheffield United’s Aaron Ramsdale. When Sheffield United are relegated (oh come on, it’s a ‘when’, not an ‘if’), there will be no shortage of potential suitors for his signature.
In a team which has seemingly been doomed from the first few weeks, he’s been a star performer, despite 23 defeats and only four wins from 29 matches.
Indeed, in the match against Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp was full of praise for Ramsdale, labelling him ‘incredible’.
Even though the Blades were beaten 2-0, he made a string of saves from Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, and his performance did not go unnoticed by the pundits, with Graeme Souness commenting that he was ‘making saves that he is not entitled to make’.
Signed from Bournemouth in the close season for £18.5m, and aged just 22, it’s clear that Ramsdale has a bright future ahead of him. An ever-present for the Blades this season, he has also represented England at under-18, under-19, under-20 and under-21 level; in May 2018, manager Aidy Boothroyd selected him to play in the Toulon Tournament, playing his first full 90 minutes against Qatar in a 4-0 win.
Would he provide any improvement to the team though, despite his potential?
After all, Fabianski has been outperforming Ramsdale in virtually every metric this season. More clean sheets recorded (not difficult, to be fair); a slightly better save percentage; and significantly less goals conceded.
Of course, these figures are impacted by Sheffield United’s dismal performance in the Premier League this season. But even so, should West Ham make the signing, it would perhaps be one for the future, and not necessarily a direct replacement for Fabianski now.
It is highly likely, though, that he would become available and not drop into the Championship with the Blades, so his availability is unlikely to be an issue.
Another player linked with us has been Leeds United’s Illan Meslier. Standing at a whopping 6’6, he’s been a formidable presence in goal this season, with a superior save percentage to Fabianski in a team that’s not known for its defensive solidity.
At only 21 years of age, his best years will also clearly be ahead of him as he gains more experience in the Premier League, and he could well be a shrewd signing.
Would Leeds be willing to sell, though? After all, they only signed him last summer, and with The Whites virtually safe this season and looking towards the higher end of the table for next term, it would seem unlikely they would want to be prised from their French talent.
In my opinion, the club has done the smart thing by extending Fab’s contract.
In the absence of any outstanding candidate to replace him, this gives the club a bit of time to keep consistency in the defence, but also to look at the situation next season – giving potential younger signings time to mature and be ready to take the next step.
There will be life after Super Fab, but for now, I’m ready for one more season of Mr Consistency between the sticks for West Ham.