Mikel Arteta believes Lukasz Fabianski can help Arsenal realise their target of a Champions League finish after impressing on his first appearance in more than a year against Bayern Munich on Wednesday night.
Arsène Wenger's decision to rest his established goalkeeper, Wojciech Szczesny, was a pre-match talking point, with the manager saying that he wanted to give the Pole a break from the pressure, which might have contributed to his nervousness and erratic form. It has been a trying season for Szczesny, who also endured a nightmarish European Championship last summer in Poland, when he conceded a soft goal, was sent off, suspended and later dropped.
Wenger has had cause to question Szczesny's focus and wonder whether his self-confidence is entirely positive. The 22-year-old was encouraged to delete his Twitter account, which he did in January, when he signed off with the message that it was "just about time for me to grow up".
Fabianski has struggled with a succession of injuries – he last played against Sunderland in February of last year – but the Pole seized his chance against Bayern, in Arsenal's 2-0 Champions League second-leg win, which was not enough to prevent an exit on away goals, and he is in contention to retain his place at Swansea City on Saturday.
Fabianski made two fine saves in the second half to deny Arjen Robben and Thomas Müller; his handling was sound throughout and his command of the penalty area was part of an encouraging defensive display from the team. Arteta, the captain in the absence of Thomas Vermaelen, who was dropped, suggested that Fabianski was ready to play a key role in Arsenal's run-in.
"I would hope so," Arteta said:. "He [Fabianski] has done it against Bayern, so why can't he do it in the following games? He was terrific mentally as well. There was a lot of pressure on him and he came in and was fantastic. He dominated the box and made a great save as well in the second half. We are really happy with him because he has been working really hard."
Wenger's selection teaser for Swansea extends beyond the goalkeeping position. He was guarded about the reasons for Vermaelen's omission against Bayern but there was a balance about the back four that he picked, with each player earning honourable mentions. Kieran Gibbs was solid in his first game since late January and the left-back must withstand the competition from Nacho Monreal, who was cup-tied on Wednesday. Defensive resilience will be a priority against Swansea.
"Some of the critics are right," Arteta said. "When you concede three at home as we did in the first leg against Bayern, you can't expect something different. And the way we conceded goals against Spurs [in the previous game] when we were dominating and you end up losing … it is frustrating.
"I am convinced we can compete but those details against big teams are massively important. The frustrating thing is when we lose games when the opposition does very little to win. If they play better than you, like Bayern did in the first 25-30 minutes of the first leg, you can put your hand up.
"But in some of the games we have lost this season that wasn't the case, and that is what we have to cut straight out. If not, it will be very difficult to get what we want."