Most West Ham fans watching Spain’s Under 21 Euros opener against Italy probably will have done so with one thing on their mind: Pablo Fornals.
Having seen him become the club’s second most expensive signing ever, Hammers will have been excited to see what the 23-year-old can do.
There was a disappointment when he didn’t start, which returned when he wasn’t brought on at half time.
However, he eventually took the field in the 66th minute and gave a glimpse of the exciting talent West Ham fans will witness this season.
Spain had been playing a double pivot 4-2-3-1 before he came on, which switched to more of a 4-1-4-1 upon Fornals’ arrival, as West Ham’s newest signing joined Dani Ceballos in the attacking midfield area.
Within seconds of coming onto the field, Fornals had got himself on the ball and making passes, something he continued as he completed all 15 of his attempted passes, according to WhoScored.
He didn’t settle for playing sideways balls though; he made two key passes in his short time on the pitch, incredibly he was only beaten in this area by one man on the entire pitch: Nicolò Barella who made three.
Fornals also completed two dribbles, which was only exceeded by three players on the pitch.
What the statistics aren’t able to capture is the intelligence of his movement throughout the game. Fornals would often float in areas between the left wing and central attacking midfield positions, making him hard to mark.
This often allowed him to pick up space in areas where he was able to influence the play, which he did, using his intelligence on the ball.
This was shown when he had it at his feet just inside the area with two men marking him, instead of trying to shoot he popped the ball back to another Spain attacker, though he was unable to make the most of the chance given.
He may not have done enough to prevent Spain losing 3-1 on the night, but Fornals’ performance was certainly an encouraging sign for Hammers fans.