West Ham United midfielder Pablo Fornals justified David Moyes’ surprise decision to start the Spaniard against Tottenham Hotspur by turning in a lively performance in Sunday’s 2-1 win.
Fornals had begun to fall out of favour at the London Stadium in recent weeks following Jesse Lingard’s arrival on loan from Manchester United but earned a recall to mark his 20th start of the Premier League season.
It was Fornals’ first top-flight appearance in three games after playing no role in his side’s previous goalless draw with Fulham or 3-0 win away to Sheffield United, while only featuring for the final six minutes of a 3-1 win at Aston Villa at the start of the month.
Few would have expected Fornals to open the action against Tottenham given his fall down Moyes’ pecking order, with Said Benrahma instead left a substitute as Jarrod Bowen was placed back on the wing to create space for Michal Antonio’s return.
He proved a constant problem for Tottenham’s defenders to deal with throughout the 90 minutes on Sunday, with Antonio frequently in the thick of West Ham’s attacking moves.
Yet his all-energy approach was nothing short of what supporters will have come to expect of the £11m-rated striker to allow Fornals to steal the honour of justifying Moyes’ team selection.
Fornals was tireless throughout his time on the field before making way for Ben Johnson to offer greater defensive support in the closing stages, as West Ham saw out a one-goal lead to move up to fourth in the Premier League table.
The £67k-per-week playmaker had been involved in Lingard doubling the Irons’ advantage early in the second half, as well, after playing a nice one-two with the England international who rounded Eric Dier and lashed home into the far corner.
Fornals and Lingard almost connected for a third with a quarter of an hour left on the clock, with the Spaniard’s pass on the edge of the box intended for Antonio rolling through to an alert Manchester United loanee whose shot was scrambled to safety.
Though only one of the chances was marked as a key pass by SofaScore, who further registered Fornals as winning four of 13 ground duels and one of two aerial contests, along with winning possession from three tackles.
On average this season, the 24-year-old has only recorded one tackle, won 2.4 ground duels, won 0.5 aerial duels per game, and further matched his usual standards with one successful dribble from two attempts.
Moyes will have been delighted to see Fornals perform at such a level to justify his selection, with it having been ever so easy to otherwise persist without the Spaniard in the side.