A Good Result, But Now Is the Time for West Ham to Unleash Pablo Fornals From the Start

It's been a pretty good start to West Ham's season, truth be told.

Eight points from five games is a pretty good return for any team, but is all the more impressive after the Hammers' 5-0 pumping from champions Manchester City on the opening day of the season suggested misery was to follow.

Instead, the players have responded and are now unbeaten in four. 

Sebastien Haller

Club-record purchase Sebastien Haller has settled quickly, ​Manuel Lanzini has looked razor sharp in midfield following his return to full fitness and Declan Rice has shown immense composure in the heart of midfield.

Consequently, things are looking up. Yes, ​Monday's draw at Aston Villa wasn't the prettiest game of football to watch, but it did demonstrate progression. In seasons gone by, Arthur Masuaku's sending off would have led to an away day capitulation. Camped in their own half, inviting pressure, the West Ham of old would no doubt have conceded.

Instead, Manuel Pellegrini encouraged his side to continue breaking forward in search of a goal. Villa had to work hard for their openings and apart from one Jack Grealish chance late on, which he fortunately spurned, things were pretty comfortable. The ​Hammers saw out the game, and a point was deservedly earned.


But that wasn't the only thing to take away from this encounter. The other talking point was the performance of second half substitute Pablo Fornals.

The Spaniard hasn't been given many opportunities to shine following his summer move from Villarreal, starting just one league game so far. But in another cameo appearance at Villa Park, the 23-year-old showed he's ready for more - even though he actually didn't play very well.

Readily available on the counter, Fornals linked up well enough with Haller as the game began to stretch, despite the Hammers' being at a numerical disadvantage. A scruffy attempt at goal from distance was not his finest, nor was his failure to shoot from 12 yards when presented the opportunity in the dying embers of the game.

But football is about confidence. And for the £24m summer signing, he's probably lacking a bit of it after failing to immediately break into the starting lineup, despite his star billing. 

What's clear for any footballing purest to see, though, is that he has the ability to make a difference for West Ham. Starring at this summer's European Under-21 championship for Spain, Fornals was exceptional as his country cruised to eventual glory, seeing off a spirited Germany side in the final.

Cute in possession, confident on the ball and able to dictate play, he has many impressive strings to bow - even having a keen eye for goal, as evidenced by his rasping strike against Belgium in the group stages. He's not the quickest, but he's a thinker who will more often than not drift into a dangerous pocket of space.

He's shown his class in La Liga previously, and there's no reason why he can't repeat that on the Premier League stage. 12 assists two seasons ago helped Villarreal finish fifth, and he's widely regarded in his homeland as a talented midfielder who is capable of becoming a mainstay in Spain's national team.

Pablo Fornals

So for West Ham, it's about giving him the platform to express himself. Andriy Yarmolenko blows very much hot and cold on the right-hand side, and with Michail Antonio crocked with a hamstring injury, Fornals' time to shine is now.

Fear not Manuel, your young midfielder has got the tools - and should be given the chance to use them, starting this weekend against Manchester United.

Source : 90min