Not for the first time in Manuel Pellegrini’s first season in charge, West Ham United have Lukasz Fabianski to thank after a result, this time around, it’s Saturday afternoon’s 1-1 Premier League draw away at David Wagner’s Huddersfield Town.
But just why did the Hammers have Fabianski to thank for coming away from the John Smith’s Stadium with a point, just how impressive was the Poland International’s performance in the stalemate and how did he compare to his opposite number on the day? Today, we will attempt to answer those questions with a statistics-driven tactical analysis, join us.
First of all, with the help of our good friends over at wyscout.com whom the below graphic has been acquired from, we will be analysing Fabianski’s key goalkeeping stats from the draw.
In the image, you will see a block of the ex-Arsenal shot-stopper’s figures from the match in question and above, his career average for these stats, but it’s just the numbers from Saturday that we’re going to be focussing on, although it does make for an interesting comparison.
As you can see, Fabianski played all 98 minutes between the sticks for the Hammers in Yorkshire, conceding a single goal, something he has done on eight occasions in 2018/2019.
The strike came after just six minutes at the John Smith’s with Alex Pritchard managing to squeeze a tame low shot through the legs of Declan Rice and into the ‘keeper’s bottom left-hand corner.
Many pointed the finger of blame at Fabianski, who appeared to be slow to react to the long-range effort, but replays show it was difficult for him to see the ball with Rice in the way. Even if the Pole was at fault, as we’ll find out, he more than made up for it as the match progressed.
His expected conceded goals rate stood at 1.29, one of the reasons being him not keeping more than one clean sheet this campaign, despite being arguably the pick of the club’s summer signings. Two days ago, Fabianski had to face a far-above-average seven shots.
Of the eye-catching six saves he made, two or roughly 33 per cent of them featured his excellent cat-like reflexes, but he didn’t commit to any exits or aerial duels in his second career visit to Huddersfield.
The Poland man’s passing stats were also of great quality at the weekend, along with the more traditional goalkeeping ones as he achieved 57% and 94% accuracy on 14 trickier longer passes and 17 short passes. Also above average was his final stat, totting up a total of eight ball distributions.
You only have to take a brief glance at the averages column of the 33-year-old to find out that Saturday’s performance, by his very high standards, was a fantastic one. With goalkeeping stats like these, it’s no surprise that Fabianski was the difference between his team leaving West Yorkshire with a point, rather than leaving with nothing having been behind for 66 minutes.
For the second phase of this tactical analysis, and to once again prove the high quality of Fabianski’s 12th competitive display in a West Ham shirt, we are going to compare him to his opposite number at 3 PM on Saturday afternoon, Huddersfield’s Jonas Lossl.
To do this, we have enlisted the help of our good friends over at whoscored.com, to bring you two graphics, the first of which is above and contains the heatmap and touch count of Lossl, a Danish International, and Fabianski.
Our first observations of the image have to be the fact that Lossl spent a lot more time in his box than Fabianski did and on the right side of the goalmouth, this tells us that he was rather static throughout the 98 minutes, therefore, he was worked less.
Meanwhile, the Hammer, who got himself within two of Joe Hart in the most PL saves for the season standings with 51 to his 53, on Saturday, had his whole goal covered and also had to do some work outside of his box, coming to collect long balls and ward off attackers. This proved that he was worked far more.
This point is further evidenced by their number of touches above the respective heatmaps, with Fabianski being much more involved in the proceedings with 54 touches of the ball, to Lossl’s total of 42, that’s 12 more.
Next, using the above graphic, we will compare some of their stats from the even encounter which ended with what many regarded as a fair result, to see who performed better.
While the pair are tied on one goal conceded, Fabianski letting the aforementioned Pritchard drive in and Lossl succumbing to a stunning half-volley from Felipe Anderson in the 72nd minute, they are separated when it comes to WhoScored match rating.
The home shot-stopper can only register 7.12 out of ten, with the away ‘keeper beating him on 7.7 out of ten, he also takes our first stat where both players registered something, share of overall possession, with 5.5% to his exactly 4%.
Lossl does come roaring back, however, enjoying a better pass completion rate of 59%, 6% more than Fabianski, and more aerial duels won with one to his zero. The Dane is also king in terms of claims, evidence that the Irons worked him more when it came to putting crosses in the box.
As we’ve mentioned, the man who swapped South Wales for East London in the summer signed for a high six saves, this was two thirds more than the two Lossl was forced into. This is a definitive test of which goalkeeper was 1, made to work more and 2, dealt with the workload better.
Much like in the saves made stat, there is only one clear winner in this comparison, but things are a little tighter overall as Fabianski wins four stats to the three of his fellow Premier League shot-stopper, proving that, statistically, he was the better goalkeeper in the match.
Fabianski To Thank
It was through the Man of the Match contending performance of the ex-Swan that his side had him to thank for a draw rather than a defeat in the north of England, and more specifically, his vital saves.
The Polish International popped up with numerous key stops at pivotal points of the match, two mere examples being in the opening minutes when he heroically tipped a Steve Mounie header onto the crossbar, seemingly defying gravity. And denying the same player later in the half from a one-on-one situation, firstly to keep the scores level and secondly, keeping the Irons just one behind at half-time and allowing them to get back into the contest.
In conclusion, our statistical tactical analysis today has found that, if it wasn’t for Fabianski, Pellegrini’s men would have undoubtedly slipped to their first league defeat in nearly a month and ended a smart run of two PL matches without losing.
In spite of club-record signing Anderson now reaching four goals in Claret & Blue, it is performances of unimaginable importance like this one that keeps Fabianski the Signing of the Season thus far, in fans’ eyes. That won’t change if he can keep delivering like this and there will be no limit as to the number of points he can win West Ham from his own goal-line as his spell in Claret & Blue progresses.