West Ham have been known for making big-money signings. What they’re known for more than that is their tendency to come up with signings that miss the target. While the instability at the club could be a reason for that. But those like Pablo Fornals show the lack of knowledge of where the player has to play on a consistent basis.
The Spanish midfielder arrived at the club from Villarreal this past summer for a £24 million fee. Since joining though, he’s been struggling to make an impact. In the Premier League, he has a tally of just one goal and three assists. All those contributions came in a handful games in one period. The rest of it has seen the player not make much of an impact.
And it isn’t down to him at all. The Spaniard has played in possibly every position he can play in. He started on the left midfield and has constantly gone from being a central midfielder or a right-winger. He has also played in attacking midfield- a sign of how the club doesn’t know what his best position is.
Early on in the season, Fornals himself had talked about how he’s struggling at the London club. He told the Hammers’ website:
“It was very hard for me. I need to play more games to really understand the new game and my new team more.
“Many people talked about the characteristics of the Premier League, but you need to live these things to understand this league. It’s so hard, very difficult, and whatever team you play against in this league is very competitive.”
That does place an extra burden. But it there is more to his situation than just the pressures of playing in a completely new league.
During his time at Villarreal last season, the midfielder could contribute to 11 goals in 50 appearances. Again, he was used in multiple positions like he is at the London Stadium this season. It shows that this isn’t a player who is bad. He’s just a player isn’t played in a consistent position.
It is no coincidence that Fornals best performance in a West Ham shirt came at home to Leicester. They did lose the game, but Fornals gave a very good account of himself playing on the right side of the midfield.
He completed four dribbles, coming up with one key pass. He also won two tackles, making a couple of interceptions as well. He was a constant threat, getting on the ball from deeper positions and running at the defence.
Even in the 2017-18 season, Fornals had very good numbers when playing on the right. For the Yellow Submarines, he played 17 times on the right side and he got two goals and six assists. That’s the highest goal contribution ratio that he’s had in his career so far.
It shows that there is a clear confusion in his position since the very early times of his career. While versatility is one thing, having one constant position is the most important thing for any player. This is an era in which attacking midfielders’ role is changing into a more complete player. Fornals is that, but he needs to nail down one position that he plays in regularly.
He plays in a team that doesn’t offer much stability either. The Hammers’ lack of depth in midfield forced them to play Fornals or Manuel Lanzini deeper- closer to Declan Rice and Mark Noble. For creative players like them, that does take a lot away in terms of creation and goalscoring.
The change in managers isn’t of help, leading to a constant change in formations. Fornals has had to adjust more than normal and that isn’t good for any player at all. Being versatile is certainly a bonus for him, but the club needs to stop changing his position in about every game.