After a slow start to life in claret and blue, everything’s coming up Pablo this season at West Ham United. Fornals is firing on all cylinders, and the loveable attacking midfielder has shown that hard work and a positive attitude are key as he’s made his way into both the Spanish national team and the Hammers’ hearts.
Fornals’ first two seasons at West Ham weren’t bad, but they didn’t set the world alight either. He put in the effort, but it didn’t always get over the line – literally. His wildly high shooting was mocked as being dangerous to astronauts on many occasions, and fans often vented their frustrations that he wasn’t the final product.
However, his work rate was never in question – he was never a player caught walking and always put 110% on the pitch, but it just didn’t translate into the results fans wanted. This was made particularly poignant when you factor in return on investment. At the time of his 2019 signing, for around £24million, Fornals was West Ham’s second most expensive signing – and the fans wanted this investment to pay off.
In his 2019-20 season, he made 40 appearances and nabbed four goals in all competitions – and grabbed five assists in the Premier League. In his 2020-21 season, 36 appearances led to six goals – an improvement – and five Premier League assists.
However, it’s this current season when the hard work and never-say-die-attitude is really coming to fruition – and when we start to understand that buying Fornals really was an investment in him and his future. Already this season Fornals has made 11 appearances, scored two goals, and one assist – and that’s not even the full picture of what he’s contributed.
Fornals is constantly creating chances. In the Spurs derby he was electric and everything seemed to be coming through him. His passing has improved significantly, and his stats show a surprisingly high amount of accurate long balls played – 40 in his first Premier League season, and already 14 this year, just seven games in.
This is ideal when you’ve got a player like Antonio to pick them up and run with them. It’s hard not to be in favour of a player who’s performing, but it’s not just his performance on the pitch that’s completely won over fans; it’s also his love for the club off of it.
In a September interview with the Guardian and Daily Mail, he declared that he completely loved the club, saying that ‘the songs, this sign when they see you in the street, the bubbles: it’s something you don’t experience anywhere else’. He continued his West Ham love-in by saying that: ‘The excitement we all feel at playing the Europa League is immense. Fans, club, players: nothing can take that anticipation away.’
All this and he’s only 25 years old – so how much further can our little wizard go? All signs currently point all the way to the moon, and not in the killing astronauts sense this time. With the Hammers sitting fourth in the table at the time of writing and on top of their Europa League group, it’s clear his efforts are paying off – and there’s no way but up from here for Fornals.