After the summer transfer window slammed shut, how many West Ham fans would’ve have picked Edimilson Fernandes as their pick of the bunch?
Let’s be honest, none of us would – not even our Swiss fans – but aft er coming into the side in an unfamiliar wing-back role for his Premier League debut, it was fantastic to see the young man put in such a solid performance against Sunderland. Th en, still adjusting to a new role in a new system, he went on to make his League Cup debut against Chelsea and put in another fine performance that was capped off with a superbly taken goal.
There may have been some who questioned his acquisition in the summer but in what has been a rather uninspiring campaign so far, he is definitely a player that has got me excited for now and the future. It would appear that I’m not the only one who thinks this is the case, with team mates and coaches having nothing but praise for him. Angelo Ogbonna, in particular, singled out the young midfielder recently when he said he’d made such a “big impact” in his first two games.
Slaven Bilic was also complimentary of the midfielder. He was quoted as saying: ‘He is very comfortable on the ball in different positions and I’m sure that him, the club, the fans and all of us are going to benefit from him, big time,’ Even without such public positivity about him, it is clear to see through his actions on and off the pitch.
On the pitch, the reaction from the players when he slotted in his goal against Chelsea said it all. Also, Fernandes has already received his fair share of Bilic fist-bumps in his limited amount of minutes played so far this season. Fernandes’ acclimatisation to life in England and the Premier League are testament to the diversity and team spirit running through the club.
With a strong contingent of French speakers within the squad, it will have made his transition an awful lot easier. Especially for a youngster who admitted he was scared by the prospect of moving away from FC Sion originally. Now, he is showing not even an ounce of that same feeling.
It is great to see a young player coming to a foreign country, playing a much higher level of football and having to cope with a completely new start to life and, from the outside, appears to be settling in so well. With a brilliant 89.3 per cent pass success rate, only second to Mark Noble by 0.3 per cent, it is clear to see that Fernandes isn’t just made up of youthful exuberance. He is also a technically-gifted young footballer.
Bilic must also be rubbing his hands with joy at the knowledge that this brilliant youngster can be used pretty much all over the pitch. When he signed for the club, we were told he was a midfielder but we’ve been more accustomed to seeing him play both left wing-back and right wing-back.
For a young player to have such confidence in himself but also that of their coach to take on different tasks, speaks volumes. There is only one downside to the emergence of Fernandes this season, and that is he shouldn’t be getting near our first team right now – well on paper anyway. Underperforming players and others becoming injured have given Fernandes his chance and you can’t say he hasn’t stepped up and been counted for, which is a lot more that can be said for other players at stages this season.
This is best summed up by Bilic recently: ‘We signed him more for the future rather than to make an immediate impact but from the first day here he has impressed with his first touch, his physique, his recovery, everything is spot on. Basically he has forced us to play him.’ The fact that this young midfielder from the Swiss League has broken into our starting XI and been one of the few bright sparks of the season is a true testament to him.
Whether or not we continue to see Edimilson Fernandes consistently for the remainder of the season or not is neither here nor there. As long as we see him in some capacity throughout the season, I’m happy. He isn’t necessarily a player for now, but as Bilic has stated, if he continues forcing his way into the XI – then so be it. Fernandes possesses all the ability to become a main stay in our midfield for years to come.