If West Ham United’s supporters weren’t already excited enough about the 2019/20 season already, then what new signing Pablo Fornals did on Wednesday will surely have sent them into overdrive.
The 23-year-old was playing for his country in the Under-21s European Championships in Italy and they appeared to be heading to a draw with their Belgian counterparts.
However, the new Hammers recruit had different ideas. Fornals drove forward from midfield and, capitalising on the opposition continually dropping off, swept the ball home past Ortwin De Wolf in the Belgium goal to secure a 2-1 win for Spain.
Clearly, Manuel Pellegrini has got himself an immensely exciting player on his hands, and the club’s fans are likely licking their lips ahead of the new campaign as a result.
The idea of pairing Fornals with Felipe Anderson and Manuel Lanzini in an attacking midfield trio behind Marko Arnautovic is salivating in the extreme. All three players are blessed with speed, trickery and an eye for scoring and creating goals.
When you examine the statistics, the Brazilian emerges as the most productive of the three players this season. He averaged the most key passes and dribbles per game, while scoring and assisting the most of the Hammers trio [Source: WhoScored]. However, it’s worth remembering that he played far more minutes than either of his counterparts, particularly Lanzini.
Fornals may not quite measure up to Anderson’s stunning debut season in England – at least not on this campaign’s evidence – but he does compare favourably to Lanzini. He averaged more shots per game than either Anderson or Lanzini, while beating the latter in key passes and the number of fouls drawn per game.
What is clear, though, is that each man compliments the other well. Anderson clearly has the more developed eye for goal, but Fornals is aggressive in taking shots which will in turn lead to goalscoring chances for his teammates. Lanzini, meanwhile, is extremely hard to dispossess.
However, all the West Ham supporters will be reflecting on on Thursday will be Fornals’s moment of brilliance against Belgium. If that’s a sign of what’s to come then the Hammers are in very good hands going forward.