While Chelsea’s managerial merry-go-round lingers, Tottenham still suffering Champions League hangover and Arsenal yet to enter the fray, West Ham is already going about its transfer activity in style. The Hammers are doing the business early than their London neighbours.
West Ham edged numerous suitors to the signature of Spanish international midfielder Pablo Fornals for a fee of £24 million. The 23-year-old creative ace signed a five-year contract, with the option of a further 12 months based on his contribution to the club in the future.
Fornals is renowned in Spain. He began his youth career with Villarreal but eventually joined Malaga aged 16, via CD Castellon. Having signed in 2012 and spent some time in the reserves, Fornals made his debut in 2015 against Real Madrid and helped his side to a 0-0 draw.
After two full seasons at La Rosaleda, he returned to the Yellow Submarine, developing into a key cog in the team, operating in an attacking role but working hard off the ball too. Fornals was ever-present this past season, chipping double figures for goals and assists in 50 appearances across all competitions.
The 23-year-old was influential in driving Villarreal to the quarter-finals of the Europa League, with three goals and a corresponding number of assists before eventually being knocked out by Valencia.
Manuel Pellegrini earnestly craved an extra man in midfield, versatile and dynamic. While Pedro Obiang fell short of expectations, Carlos Sanchez was more of a spectator, pampered till a potential client comes along. Jack Wilshere can hardly be trusted owing to his fitness issues. The Samir Nasri experiment crashed.
Skipper Mark Noble and Declan Rice were overused, sharing 72 games between. In Fornals, however, West Ham struck gold owing to the Castellon native’s versatility and dynamism.
Fornals is adept anywhere in midfield thanks to his tactical nous, tireless running, fine passing and excellent dribbling. At Villarreal, the 23-year-old spent time as a central midfielder, a No.10 and a winger – while he even also played as a forward. Should Pellegrini stick to his 4-2-3-1 system, Fornals is likely to battle Manuel Lanzini for the team’s attacking midfielder.
Dribbling at a pace between the lines or helping switch the play, Fornals won’t quite be the man laying on goals. He will instead be getting the ball forward into dangerous areas for the likes of Felipe Anderson, Marko Arnautovic and Michail Antonio to do the business.
He averaged almost two key passes per game last campaign while putting up his fair share of tackles (68). Fornals flaunts the perfect mix of elegance, creativity, drive and determination.
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