Arsenal bouyant heading into Chelsea clash

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The Independent Football

The mood at Arsenal, funereal on Monday following the shock home defeat to West Bromwich Albion, was bouyant yesterday after the team returned from Serbia with three Champions League points and, just as important, confidence restored.

That was especially the case when it came to Lucasz Fabianski. The goalkeeper responded to his recall, in place of the injured Manuel Almunia, with a solid performance against Partizan Belgrade capped by a late penalty save.

With Almunia still in doubt for Sunday’s match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge Fabianski’s display was just what the club, and player, needed.

“I am pleased with my overall performance,” said the 25-year-old, “not only my saves but I read the game, handled crosses and kicked well.

“I was never bothered by all the [criticism]. I was always trying to focus on my job, my work. That is what I was doing. But saving a penalty is good for confidence. It would have been 3-2 with a few minutes left and Partizan could have thrown all their players up front and done everything possible [to equalize].”

Keiran Gibbs, who conceded the spot-kick, admitted: “I owe him a lot for saving the penalty. Saving that was as important as scoring a goal for us.”

After the save Fabianski howled with triumph and Gibbs added: “I think he felt like he had a point to prove. I think that is why he reacted that way after he had saved the penalty.

“He has shown great character. We do feel for him (after the criticism he has had) because we know his qualities and he has shown them tonight. He is good in the air, he is a great talker and he doesn’t hide away. He put in a great performance.”

Fabianski said he was ‘ready’ to face Chelsea if the opportunity arose. He added: “We are looking forward to the game. We’re playing really well. The beginning of the season was good. We had a big shock on Saturday but Partizan was much better. Victory at Chelsea would show we are real title contenders.

“We are not in a bad position [Arsenal are third, four points behind leaders Chelsea]. We played really well until the West Brom game and that is behind us now.”

Arsenal are also waiting on the fitness of Cesc Fabregas and Abou Diaby ahead of Sunday’s match, and are sure to be without Robin van Persie, Nicklas Bendtner and Thomas Vermaelen. With Chelsea also suffering injuries the match will be a test of depth, as well as quality.