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Nov 30, 2010

Fabianski: Errors helped me improve

It is perhaps the most unfortunate feature of being a goalkeeper: that your mistakes usually live longer in the memory than those made by your outfield team-mates and that a single error can often eclipse a career of excellent saves.

Fabianski: I can be world-class

Former Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman is one such example. Seaman stood steadfastly between the Highbury posts for 13 years, winning ten trophies with the Gunners and producing stunning saves aplenty.

His status as one of England's best ever goalkeepers is not disputed, but the name Seaman is more likely to conjure up images of Ronaldinho's goal against him at the 2002 World Cup than of his incredible denial of Sheffield United's Paul Peschisolido in the 2003 FA Cup semi-final in the minds of the average football fan. Seaman was, of course, also not helped by the fact that he allowed a corner from Macedonia captain Artim Sakiri to drop straight over his head just three months after the Brazil game, or by the long-range goal he conceded to Nayim in the 1995 Cup Winners' Cup final.

Currently boasting the title of Arsenal No.1 once bestowed upon Seaman is Lukasz Fabianski, who has already suffered a few blots to his own copy book. Last season's Champions League last-16 nightmare against Porto, in particular, provided a real test of character for the Polish 'keeper, as his two blunders gifted the Portuguese side both goals in a 2-1 victory at Estadio do Dragao. Fabianski's blushes were spared somewhat by the Gunners' dominant display in a 5-0 second-leg victory, but another horror-show against Wigan in April left his reputation in tatters.

It was a tough couple of months for a goalkeeper who had long been touted as the next big thing by his manager Arsene Wenger, and who had been battling tooth-and-nail to displace Manuel Almunia since arriving from Legia Warsaw as a fresh-faced 22-year-old in 2007. But Fabianski refused to let his confidence or career fall victim to the high-profile blunders and didn't dwell on the intense media criticism of his displays.

"I think you have to use every game you have played in a positive way, even if you have played badly," Fabianski tells ESPNsoccernet. "You have to always make some conclusions from every single game. Going through that difficult period helped me to become a better 'keeper.

"The most important thing for me are the comments from the manager and the goalkeeping coach. I am always listening to them and their word is the most important to me - I always focus on that. When something bad happens I won't run away from it, I won't hide away. I'm going to just take it on the chin and work even harder."

In the summer, Fabianski did just that, but despite a number of impressive performances in pre-season, Almunia was selected ahead of him as Arsenal's No. 1 at the start of the current campaign. However, an elbow injury to the Spaniard in September saw Fabianski handed his chance, with Wenger again happy to reiterate his belief in the Pole's ability.

"I am personally convinced he is a world-class goalkeeper, potentially, and of course when you have that potential you want to transfer that into competitive games," Wenger said of Fabianski in September. "I can only give him the opportunity to give him games to show what I believe about how good he is. I believe he has a very strong attitude, very strong response and he works very hard in training, so he has an opportunity to show his massive talent. I have massive faith in him and I think I have shown this historically. I am convinced he will become a great goalkeeper."

Wenger has consistently been gushing in his praise of Fabianski - backing him to the hilt last season, even after such costly errors - and the goalkeeper has certainly rewarded his manager's faith with a string of excellent displays. Superb showings against Manchester City and Wolves have underlined his No.1 credentials, though the misjudgement that led to Andy Carroll's winner for Newcastle in November showed that he is still not the finished article. Fabianski admits that through the good and the bad times, the unwavering faith of his manager has been vital for his confidence.

"It's nice to have the confidence of my manager and my team-mates but you also need to prove that you deserve those opinions. I think my pre-season games I showed that I can fight for the No.1 spot in the Arsenal team and that's what it's all about - battling for a place.

"He [Wenger] has been very important, he brought me here and gave me the opportunity. He also improved me as a goalkeeper - in helping improve my understanding football, he has played a big role."

It remains to be seen whether Almunia's imminent return to fitness will spell the end of Fabianski's reign between the posts, while any new arrivals - such as the long-rumoured Shay Given or Mark Schwarzer - in January would be potentially harmful for his development. But the 25-year-old, whose modest manner fails to mask an infectious confidence in his abilities, prefers to concentrate on Arsenal's fortunes, rather than his own.

"For me the main thing is to win trophies with Arsenal and that would be great. I would love to help the club win the Premier League. Every trophy is important for us because we haven't won a trophy in more than five years so any trophy that we win will be great.

"I would love to see us at the top of the league and I think that we can fight for the title. I think we are in a good position at the moment. We just have to work on a few things and if we can do that then I think we can be champions."

While Seaman's most memorable reputation-tarnishing howlers came at the end of his career, Fabianski's have come at the start of his - giving him plenty of time to shed the derogatory 'Flappyhandski' nickname assigned to him by the media and prove that his manager's assessment of him being potentially "world class" is not as far off the mark as some have suggested.

Lukasz Fabianski was talking to ESPNsoccernet in association with Uhlsport.

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