Pablo Fornals has dealt West Ham United a titanic blow ahead of facing Sheffield United on Sunday after stating why he favours playing with Michail Antonio over Sebastien Haller.
While speaking with the Irons’ official club website, Fornals has noted how Antonio has the ability to make attacks easy as all the Spanish midfielder has to do is pick him out, knowing the centre-forward can do the rest.
Antonio has often been praised by manager David Moyes for his relentless workrate as the spearhead of West Ham’s frontline, in a role the Hammers chief does not feel Haller has the ability to match when played in a one-striker formation.
Moyes has persisted with a single central attacker since returning to the London Stadium to succeed Manuel Pellegrini, with the 57-year-old only naming two centre-forwards in five fixtures across all competitions during his current 31-match run at the helm.
The Scottish coach is unlikely to favour a change in tack when West Ham visit Sheffield United on Sunday, with Moyes already backed to name Haller as his starting striker with Antonio only among the substitutes following his hamstring injury.
Doing so could see Fornals struggle in his search for a third assist of the top-flight season, having noted the reasons why he favours lining up behind Antonio rather than Haller.
“We are close friends, not just outside the pitch but on it too, where all of you can see how both of us enjoy playing together,” Fornals said while smiling.
“I always say that in whatever team I play for, I want to play with a player like Mikey because, for me, he makes it so easy to play with him. I just have to find his body [with the ball], because if I find his body, I know we will have the ball for a second chance.”
The last time Moyes named two strikers in a starting line-up for a Premier League fixture came in March’s 1-0 loss at Arsenal to extend a winless run with multiple centre-forwards, along with a 2-0 defeat at Manchester City and a 4-1 drubbing by Leicester, plus a 1-0 loss to West Brom after a 2-0 win over Gillingham in the FA Cup.
With Moyes already backed to favour handing Haller, who has largely flopped so far with 12 goals in 44 matches following a £45m move in 2019, his third start of the Premier League season, Fornals’ comments may come as a titanic blow to both him and West Ham’s hope of beating Sheffield United this weekend.
In the two full top-flight fixtures the Irons have contended since losing Antonio, Fornals has failed to register any key balls, deliver an accurate cross, connect a long pass, has lost possession 24 times, made just two successful dribbles, directed two shots on target and won three of his 10 ground duels, per SofaScore.
Moyes even saw enough from Fornals that he hauled the £67,308-per-week midfielder off after 72-minutes against Fulham while West Ham continued to search for a breakthrough goal.
It was a performance that will have left a shoddy impression on the Hammers boss, who has previously urged Fornals to deliver consistent performances as he can typify the energy the Scot wants from his players.
“He is a really likeable boy, and he works incredibly hard for the team,” Moyes said, via quotes by the West Ham website. “We are always demanding more from him because we want him to contribute with assists and goals and he has been doing that.
“He’s been more involved, and I have to say, his energy and enthusiasm in training is incredible and we really like him. What we have got here is the slight makings of a young group of players who are all doing well and giving us a much bigger energy than in the past.”