The summer signing of Spanish midfielder Pablo Fornals had been met with much fanfare amongst us, the West Ham faithful.
The diminutive midfielder, despite still being only 23, had already amassed 129 appearances for Malaga and Villareal scoring 12 goals and earning both rave reviews and a call up to the Spanish national team before joining the Hammers.
Despite the buzz, few of us would have actually seen him play prior to his arrival, but we didn’t have to wait long to watch him in action.
The U21 UEFA European Championship this summer saw Fornals star for eventual winners Spain, giving us eager fans a chance to see what he was all about.
Operating as part of a five-man midfield, in one of the advanced roles in front of two holding midfielders, Fornals showed that he had quick feet, a touch of flair, vision and an eye for goal. It certainly whetted our appetite.
That anticipation only grew once Fornals featured during pre-season, linking up well with Lanzini, Anderson and our other new boy Sebastien Haller, exchanging positions and passes with his fellow creators-in-chief and registering a goal in the win over Hertha Berlin.
His style of play saw fans harbouring hopes that he may become Pellegrini’s David Silva – a creative midfielder who had flourished under the Chilean during his time in charge at Manchester City respectively.
But it is safe to say – at time of writing – the new boy hasn’t quite lived up to our expectations as yet.
Whilst the Spaniard has featured six times, they have mostly been substitute appearances and he hasn’t really made an impact.
That said he did start and score in our cup victory over Newport County.
But there is no need to panic. In fact, where Fornals is concerned it is likely that good things will come to those who wait.
For a start, it isn’t unusual for there to be an adjustment period for signings from abroad. The pace and physicality of the Premier League can be a bit of a culture shock for players whose game isn’t built around speed or strength.
Add in learning a new language and acclimatising to a new city and it can take some time to see the best of Premier League newbies.
And whilst Fornals isn’t slow or lightweight, his speed is more in his quick feet and thinking rather than giving Ryan Fredericks a run for his money in a foot race.
But Fornals’ biggest hurdle to overcome before he can fulfil his promise in a West Ham shirt may be his teammates.
His successful summer saw him play from the left of an attacking midfield three in front of two more deep lying midfielders – not too dissimilar to how Pellegrini sets us up.
The difference is that with Spain’s U21, Fornals, Cabellos and Olmo operated as interchanging no.10s, effectively playing more narrow and allowing the fullbacks to overlap, playing in the half spaces between the full backs and the centre backs rather than a more traditional set up with two wingers and one solitary central attacking midfielder.
It is a tiny tactical tweak but one that really enabled Pablo to shine. And one that doesn’t quite suit the teammates he has at West Ham.
For a start, Anderson and Yarmolenko are more out and out wingers who like to hug the touchline, attack their fullbacks or cut inside to get a strike away.
Equally Lanzini does his best work centrally – yes he can drift out wide, but it will invariably be so that he can cut inside again.
None really suit the constant positional changes that Fornals thrived with during the summer.
And so, Pablo’s best chance maybe trying to out one of the aforementioned teammates from the starting 11 – but Lanzini has started the season well and Anderson was our standout attacking outlet last season. It will be no easy task.
Taking Yarmolenko’s spot maybe his best bet, as the Ukrainian works his way back from his lengthy lay off.
There were suggestions from some that the Fornals signing was unnecessary, that we have stockpiled creators when a signings in other positions would have been more beneficial.
You could argue that those voices had a point.
But Fornals’ style does suit our system. We often see Anderson and Yarmolenko cut inside allowing Masuaku or Fredericks to overlap, so Fornals starting slightly narrower would not require too much of a change to the game plan, just an alteration to the way we move the ball up the pitch from the back.
He also has the energy and intelligence to not only link up well with Haller once the ball goes into the feet of our centre forward, but also to be part of the ‘high press’ that we often like to employ.
There is definitely potential for the young Spaniard to grow into the system and flourish the season.
For the time being, we may have to show some patience as he adapts to a new country, a new league and a new system.
But if and when the adjustment period is over and things start to fall into place, there is every chance that we may have a real gem on our hands.