Pablo Fornals produced another energetic performance to emerge as David Moyes’ silver lining of West Ham United’s 2-1 loss to Manchester City on Saturday.
Moyes opted to retain the Spaniard in his starting line-up at the Etihad Stadium after Fornals produced an impressive display in last week’s 2-1 win over rivals Tottenham Hotspur, in what was a surprise outing for the 25-year-old.
Fornals had only played six minutes of Premier League football this month before Spurs’ trip from north to east London after successive appearances as an unused substitute, but has now featured for 172 of an available 180 minutes since earning an unexpected recall.
Fornals was ever persistent with his drive and willingness to run against Pep Guardiola’s early champions-elect Manchester City, to prove a handful both on and off the ball for the runaway Premier League leaders.
Moyes had clearly instructed the £67,000-per-week maestro to stick with Citizens talisman Kevin de Bruyne whenever the Belgian posed a threat, and stuck to the task well to restrict the £108m-rated megastar to just two key passes – the same as offered by Hammers defenders Vladimir Coufal and Aaron Cresswell, per WhoScored.
Fornals further played a role in Michail Antonio netting West Ham’s only goal of the day moments before half-time, with the £24m Manuel Pellegrini signing spreading play into a pocket of space in the final-third for Coufal to attack.
The Czech Republic full-back’s resulting cross was eventually turned home after Jesse Lingard’s strike found Antonio for a tap in at the back post.
The only true blemish on Fornals’ performance came in John Stone’s winning goal midway through the second period, having been too slow to react to the danger posed by the Sky Blues centre-half.
But Fornals’ confidence to play on the half-turn, with his head up and never shy from taking the game to Manchester City ensured he emerged as Moyes’ silver lining, having not been expected to feature frequently a week ago to now warrant a starting place in the Irons XI.
Fornals additionally made two successful dribbles from three attempts, only Lingard (1/5) also beat a Citizens player with the ball at their feet. But unlike the Manchester United loanee, the 2019 European U21 champion also won possession back with two tackles from five challenges – Coufal (8) was the sole West Ham player to contest for the ball more often.
Only Tomas Soucek broke up City play on more occasions than Fornals with four interceptions to three, but averages 1.6 per Premier League appearance to his Spanish teammate’s one.
Fornals also averages just 1.2 successful tackles from 2.9 challenges, 0.7 key passes and 0.9 successful dribbles from 1.6 attempts per top-flight appearance this term.
Moyes will surely be delighted with the manner of Fornals’ response to falling out of favour with successive impressive performances against established top-six opposition, often eclipsing the standards seen over his run in the side earlier in the campaign.