The injury to West Ham United winger Michail Antonio has put the pressure on all of the attacking players at the club, from wingers, to playmakers, to forwards.
However, the responsibility for filling the Englishman’s boots may fall most firmly on the shoulders of big money summer signing Pablo Fornals.
Writing for Football London, West Ham correspondent Sam Inkersole delivered his verdict on what Hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini’s best squad would be with everyone fully fit.
In that piece, he claimed that Antonio would start for the Chilean were he not sidelined, a verdict which suggests that his place would have to be taken by Fornals – although his snub of Saturday goalscorer Andriy Yarmolenko was bizarre.
Given that he doesn’t mention the Ukrainian, though, you’d have to assume that he sees Fornals as the natural replacement for Antonio, something which you pretty much have to take for granted given the fee that the Hammers paid for the Spaniard this summer.
The pressure is now huge on the 23-year-old’s shoulders, especially given the inevitably slow adaptation to English football that he has endured thus far – although his goal against Newport County in the Carabao Cup last Tuesday suggests that he is getting there.
However, when you consider the way both Fornals and Antonio performed for their respective clubs last season, there’s certainly cause for concern amongst the Irons fanbase.
As per WhoScored.com, despite playing fewer games and consequently fewer minutes than Fornals last term, Antonio scored more goals and registered more assists. The 29-year-old also produced more shots and dribbles per game.
Fornals averaged more key passes per outing, which speaks to his naturally more creative tendencies, but he needs to round out his game and improve his actual production if he is going to be quality cover for Antonio.
So, yes, the pressure is now on Fornals. He was signed for big money and now he needs to step up and do the business. Let’s see if he can do it.