Fornals is twice-capped by Spain and 23 years old. He posted five goals and six assists from attacking midfield last season, two years after he moved from Malaga. His first season saw him tie for La Liga’s lead in assists with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi with 12.
West Ham had serious problems in the midfield last year, though most were injury-related with Manuel Lanzini and Jack Wilshere among the men missing plenty of minutes.
“I personally have followed his career since he was a youth player with me at Malaga, and I know we have signed an incredible professional and an incredible character.
“To represent Spain as a full international at the age of 20, and then to have made over 150 appearances in La Liga by the age of 23, is a sign of great quality and character. He joins us a young player still with many years ahead of him, yet with strong experience and already proven at the very highest level.”
If he recaptures his magic from a season ago, the move could well take the Irons attack into the next level.
Twenty months ago I pegged Burnley to get relegated with an almost record-low amount of points. The Clarets qualified for the Europa League, and I ate my words (even if Sean Dyche‘s men seemingly out-performed every metric on Earth in spite of stats, like some old man claiming Man City wins because of “better chemistry, not talent”).
Cardiff City Predicted finish: 20
Actual finish: 18
How wrong was I? Not. As much credit as the Bluebirds got for grinding every week, and as much of a difference as the late Emiliano Sala could’ve been to their fortunes, they completed passes at an almost absurdly-bad 63.9 percent rate while having just 39.1 percent of the ball. It was bad.
Huddersfield Town Predicted finish: 19
Actual finish: 20
How wrong was I? Not. Huddersfield Town managed a league-worst .4 attempts per game from inside the six-yard box, and were one of only five teams to attempt less than six shots per game from inside the 18.
Predicted finish: 18
Actual finish: 11
How wrong was I? Pretty wrong. Javi Gracia‘s men were strong against bad teams — for the most part — but never sprung another real upset after beating Spurs to go 4-0 early in the season. Record against the Top Six? 1W-0D-11L.
Predicted finish: 17
Actual finish: 14
How wrong was I? Eh. The Cherries were never really in trouble thanks to a 6-2-2 start, but man did they ride their luck.
Predicted finish: 16
Actual finish: 15
How wrong was I? I’ve learned my lesson. Regardless of how much talent appears to be on a Sean Dyche roster, he’s a rich man’s Tony Pulis and should not be doubted.
Predicted finish: 15
Actual finish: 16
How wrong was I? With respect to Mark Hughes, I thought Saints’ season would come down to when he was sacked and who they identified to replace him. Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s in a good place.
Brighton and Hove Albion
Predicted finish: 14
Actual finish: 17
How wrong was I? A bit wrong, and I pretty much blame Pascal Gross, who back slid from 7 goals and 8 assists in his Premier League debut to just three and three in Year No. 2. The Seagulls didn’t score a single goal from outside the 18.
Predicted finish: 13
Actual finish: 7
How wrong was I? It’s not simply about buying players — see: Fulham — but about acquiring hungry players. Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota, and several others had points to prove, and Jimenez especially made it well.
Predicted finish: 12
Actual finish: 13
How wrong was I? To be honest, this went about as I expected given the brutal fixture list to start the season. Had I known Miguel Almiron would’ve transitioned so nicely from MLS to the PL, I might’ve had them 10th.
Predicted finish: 11
Actual finish: 19
How wrong was I? Very, but to my defense so were most people. On paper, the Cottagers improved more than even Wolves.
Predicted finish: 10
Actual finish: 12
How wrong was I? The stats kinda back me up, and it may be worth noting for next season that the Palace’s results didn’t match its performances. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luka Milivojevic, and Wilfried Zaha gave them difference makers in all thirds of the field, and it’s surprising they didn’t push a bit higher on the table.
Predicted finish: 9
Actual finish: 9
How wrong was I? Not. The Foxes were pretty infuriating all year. Maybe Brendan Rodgers‘ ego and power will match the player power that’s run the club since they won the title. That said, the inconsistency and tumult shouldn’t be a surprise in a season the club had to deal with its owner dying on a match day.
West Ham United
Predicted finish: 8
Actual finish: 10
How wrong was I? It took Marco Silva longer than expected to get his men humming, but think of this: If Jordan Pickford doesn’t give Divock Origi a derby winner, Everton is going to Europe. I know, I know… chaos theory. But still.
Predicted finish: 6
Actual finish: 4
How wrong was I? Like many, I was stunned that Spurs didn’t spend this summer and thought injuries would hurt them. They did, but only to the extent that Tottenham wasn’t able to sustain a title challenge. Spurs rarely gave the ball away, and the only teams that averaged fewer “times dispossessed” than Tottenham’s 9.2 per 90 were teams that never had the ball: Brighton, Cardiff, and Burnley.
Predicted finish: 5
Actual finish: 5
How wrong was I? Spot-on. It was going to take time for the Gunners to come together following a first managerial change in ages, but Arsenal had the offense to challenge for the Top Four. Surprisingly for Arsenal, they averaged just eight dribbles per game, 12th in the PL. Unai Emery had them more cautious than usual.
Predicted finish: 4
Actual finish: 3
How wrong was I? Not. Maurizio Sarri is not for everyone, but he knows how to get results. Granted Gonzalo Higuain was his guy, but he did it without a top striker.
Predicted finish: 3
Actual finish: 2
How wrong was I? Well, considering the Reds had one of the best runners-up finishes of all-time, quite wrong. Mostly, I didn’t expect Mohamed Salah to deliver again and he mostly did (save for a late winter slump).
Predicted finish: 2
Actual finish: 6
How wrong was I? Real wrong. Almost as wrong as United looks for canning Jose Mourinho. The manager needed to leave town, but there was a reason he was playing so packed-in. Ask yourself this: If Ed Woodward gave Mourinho the use of Toby Alderweireld, would Spurs and United be flipped?
Predicted finish: 1
Actual finish: 1
How wrong was I? On point. How good was City? For a club that ranked No. 1 in possession, they were only dispossessed 10.3 times per match. That was the 8th fewest total in the league.
On the same day his former club won its second-straight title, Manuel Pellegrini had himself a great end of the season as well. West Ham routed ten-man Watford, 4-1, at Vicarage Road, finishing the season with 52 points and securely in mid-table in the Premier League standings. It was West Ham’s third consecutive win to finish the season, following victories over Tottenham and Southampton.
West Ham captain Mark Noble scored twice while Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzini each added one of their own in the road victory. Meanwhile, Gerard Deolufeo scored the lone goal for Watford, though he had to be substituted midway through the second half on suspicion of injury. It was a rough end of the season for Watford, which now prepares for the FA Cup final a week from today.
West Ham was in the ascendancy early in the first half, and it showed as the Irons got on the board first. Combining with Michail Antonio, Noble passed through the heart of midfield before running at Watford’s defense in the 15th minute. Noble then cut back to his left foot and slotted a strike home, past Ben Foster to put West Ham up 1-0.
Antonio again played a role in his side’s second goal, as he battled with Watford’s Craig Cathcart and Kiko before squirming free. Despite being off balance, Antonio’s strike clattered off the bar. Luckily for West Ham, it went right into the path of the wide-open Lanzini, who headed into an open net.
Javi Gracia‘s halftime team talk must have worked because Watford came out with more intensity and fight in the second half. The hosts used a bit of luck as well to cut the lead in half and for the moment, get back into the game.
A poor back pass from Pablo Zabaleta, perhaps with some of his mind on how his former Manchester City teammates were doing, put Fabian Balbuena and Lukasz Fabianski in no-mans land. Deulofeu, who had a quiet first half, ran down the ball, poked it past Fabianski and scored to make it 2-1 just 20 seconds into the second half.
However, Watford’s hopes to secure a point took a big hit two minutes later. With Antonio through on goal, Jose Holebas pulled him down just outside the box, leading to a straight red card for the denial of a goal-scoring opportunity.
It’s all happening on Premier League Championship Sunday! Liverpool came into the day needing a win and Manchester City help to win its first Premier League title ever, and they had the lead for a bit on Sadio Mane‘s opener, and City stunningly fell behind, but Pep Guardiola‘s group has recovered to regain the advantage.
The rest of the table is lit as well, with Tottenham reclaiming third in the table thanks to Eric Dier‘s early goal with Chelsea held goalless at Leicester City. There’s still 45 minutes left to play!
Here’s a quick look at what’s happening around the English top flight with all games at the halfway break.
Brighton 1-2 Man City
The unthinkable happened early on when Brighton took the lead when Glenn Murray got a touch from a corner. Sergio Aguero was on hand to immediately nullify the opener, flicking in through the legs of Matt Ryan on a David Silva feed, and Aymeric Laporte restored order and put City back on top of the Premier League table.
Liverpool 1-0 Wolves
Sadio Mane is the man to give Liverpool hope, scoring 17 minutes in to put the Reds on top of the league as it stood, before being pegged back in the table by Manchester City’s double. Wolves hit the bar before the break to give Reds fans a scare.
Leicester City 0-0 Chelsea
Chelsea has been relatively tame so far, with Ross Barkley and Gonzalo Higuain coming close but no breakthrough just yet, with the latter putting forth a candidate for Miss of the Season as he bundled an opportunity on the doorstep as the halftime buzzer sounded.
Tottenham 1-0 Everton
Eric Dier got things started just three minutes into the match as he pinged a loose ball into the back of the net on a corner with Everton failing to immediately clear.
Burnley 0-0 Arsenal
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit the crossbar in the opening minutes but Arsenal has not yet found a way through. Mateo Guendouzi had a pinpoint tackle to deny Burnley its biggest opportunity.
Mark Noble struck 15 minutes in with a stunning solo goal, weaving through the defense straight down the middle to complete a sliding finish. Manuel Lanzini doubled the lead eight minutes before the break.
Crystal Palace 3-1 Bournemouth
Michy Batshuayi was the man to kick off the scoring 24 minutes in, striking on a deflected Wilfried Zaha cross that fell to his feet. He struck again less than 10 minutes later, and Jack Simpson‘s own goal marked Palace’s third. Jefferson Lerma scored for Bournemouth right on the stroke of halftime.
Fulham 0-2 Newcastle
The Magpies opened the match with a quickfire double to silence the Craven Cottage faithful, with Jonjo Shelvey striking an absolute stunner of a volley, followed by a scrappy goal from Ayoze Perez.
Southampton 1-0 Huddersfield Town
Nathan Redmond hit a blistering strike four minutes before the break to put Saints up at the half.
Spurs have 4-straight wins at new stadium, with 0 conceded
West Ham have 1 point from last 8 away games
Injuries piling up for Tottenham
Tottenham host West Ham United on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as Mauricio Pochettino‘s men aim to take another huge stride towards a top four finish with a big win in a London derby.
With their massive UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against Ajax coming up on Tuesday, Pochettino could well rest a few of his key players considering the swathe of injuries Spurs have suffered in recent weeks. And given they now have a four point cushion to Arsenal and Man United outside of the top four, Spurs have a little more breathing room than they did a few weeks ago.
As for West Ham, this season has been all about transition for Manuel Pellegrini with the Chilean boss guiding them to a steady midtable finish although the Hammers will be wondering ‘what if’ as seventh place seemed well within their grasps this season.
Pochettino on Ajax having their league game moved for more rest ahead of the UCL semifinal: “I know the Premier League and FA helped us prepare for the semi-final but it’s true, the Premier League is completely different to the Dutch league. Football in Europe is completely different to England. The reality is they are going to have more time to prepare and avoid risk. When you play Saturday and Tuesday, and the game on Saturday is a derby, playing for big things, the concentration and effort is massive. You can have some problems.”
Pellegrini on how West Ham can reach the next level: “First it’s a big game because it’s a derby, of course. You have that motivation also. After that you must try to play well, as a big team, as a consistent team. Maybe you play away a little bit less attacking and have more players defending and you don’t have the mentality to believe you can win, maybe you have more draws. But it’s better to have just one mentality against every team, the way we played against Manchester United, and now I hope we repeat that against Tottenham, thinking as a big team and playing as a big team.”
Spurs’ injuries are mounting up and although West Ham have made it tough for their London rivals in recent seasons, it’s tough to see them getting anything out of this. This should be an open, entertaining game and I think Tottenham will just edge it. 3-2 to Spurs.