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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Could Fabianski cost Arsenal their Champions League semi-final?

As many of you will have already heard Lukasz Fabianski could be more than likely to deputise for Manuel Almunia in another semi-final for Arsenal. This time, in the first leg against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday 29th April, in what will be the Gunners' biggest game of the season so far. Having seen his horror show in one semi-final already, could the Polish shot-stopper be Arsenal’s biggest problem in trying to reach a second Champions League final?

Arsene Wenger’s youth policy has become well-known in the footballing world for creating young men who seemingly have little fear and are already prepared for any situation that comes their way. However, Fabianski is the exception that breaks that rule after ‘bottling it’ against Chelsea on Saturday.

Much like yourselves I have seen the 24-year-old a few times this season and always thought he gave a very good account of himself, looking confident coming for crosses and producing some great saves along the way, most notably the one he produced against Wigan in the Carling Cup this season. On the big stage though he looked like a rabbit caught in headlights in one of the worst goalkeeping performances I have seen for quite some time.

Almunia’s potential replacement looked a shadow of the man we have seen and in gifting Didier Drogba the winner he will have done major damage to his reputation amongst Arsenal fans who will now have little or no confidence in him. Despite his poor display though I believe Fabianski will bounce back, the only problem is that he will need time, something Arsenal don’t have with the game at Old Trafford being just eight days away.

With the game against Liverpool to come, along with Middlesbrough at home on Saturday, there isn’t enough time for the Poland international to get his confidence back. From the outside that looks to be his problem, a lack of confidence and belief, along with an annoying habit of rushing out of his goal.

It's a safe football bet that Old Trafford will be a cauldron of noise next Wednesday, a place where a young goalkeeper will struggle to find any friends on a season-defining night. It looked as if Fabianski cracked under the pressure, another aspect that will make the Champions League semi-final almost impossible for him.

Arsenal are almost guaranteed to come under some kind of pressure at some point next week and will look to their goalkeeper to organise the defence and be calm when dealing with difficult situations. I fear that instead of finding that goalkeeper though they will find a young man looking out of place and someone who Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo will be licking their lips to face.

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