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Irish Hammer 6:01 Mon Nov 8
Great Article on Fornals and the way he plays.

This Article came with loads of pictures etc but I can’t post them obviously. Still though it’s a great read. Delighted he got international recognition as well, makes us very attractive to overseas potential signings that they can progress their careers very seriously with us.

Pablo Fornals’ work with and without the ball for West Ham gives Liverpool a taste of their own medicine

The aftermath of West Ham’s 3-2 victory over Liverpool was dominated by controversy about refereeing decisions in the opening 10 minutes.

Should West Ham’s opener have been disallowed because of a foul on Alisson? Should Aaron Cresswell have been dismissed for a high tackle on Jordan Henderson? Jurgen Klopp had his opinions and you will have yours.

But tactically, the key feature of the game was also subtly evident in both those incidents. For the opener, Alisson struggled to cope with a whipped Pablo Fornals delivery from West Ham’s left flank.

For the other incident, Cresswell didn’t need to dive into the tackle because Fornals had tracked back and was helping to double up against Henderson.

Fornals was West Ham’s outstanding player, theoretically playing a No 10 role but realistically located in an inside-left position, darting back to congest the play in the left-back position and then pushing forward on the overlap to help support attacks. With Cresswell at left-back and Said Benrahma on the left of midfield, West Ham essentially played with three players down that flank.

It is all about the numbers game. Liverpool continually create chances from working three-against-two situations down their right flank, with Trent Alexander-Arnold often moving inside and Henderson making arcing runs to the right flank — as evidenced by this move after 18 minutes.

Various opponents have found themselves exposed by Liverpool overloading the right flank with Henderson’s drifts, but David Moyes was careful not to be another victim of that tactic — he will have watched Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid in midweek when Alexander-Arnold was left free to assist both goals and would have felt the need to protect that flank.

So here’s what West Ham did. On the pre-match teamsheets, Fornals was depicted as a No 10, playing just off Michail Antonio, but he actually dropped in and focused on shutting down Henderson. Benrahma, considered a talented technical player but not the most diligent defensive operator, played the conventional left-sided role well, not always dropping goalside of Alexander-Arnold but instead positioning himself to cut off passes into him.

This was something that Fornals also did intelligently — rather than traditionally man-marking Henderson goalside of him, he would position himself in front so he would not get dragged too deep. Here’s an example from 11 minutes in, showing that this approach also gave licence for Fornals to go pressing higher up the pitch, having the confidence to shut down Fabinho because he was blocking the passing lane into Henderson.

He did the same thing a little later, closing down Alexander-Arnold by positioning himself in the way of Henderson, making this interception and allowing West Ham the opportunity to launch a break.

Benrahma and Fornals effectively worked as a duo down the left, making sure West Ham were not outnumbered. Here’s an example of them both pushing out towards the left flank as Liverpool attempted to build through Alexander-Arnold.

When he instead plays a pass infield and Liverpool look to switch the play, it is clear that Fornals and Benrahma are in constant dialogue, working out their marking responsibilities together. They largely stopped Liverpool from making inroads down their preferred side.

Interestingly, arguably Liverpool’s clearest sight of goal came when West Ham’s attacking players had briefly swapped positions after an attack broke down, leaving centre-forward Antonio defending the left flank.

Despite being a former wide midfielder or full-back, Antonio didn’t show the same defensive capacity as Benrahma, and for the first time Liverpool successfully created an overload and got the ball out to Henderson in a crossing position. Note Antonio walking back, having been bypassed, and Henderson being free to swing in a cross to the head of Diogo Jota.

The only other time Henderson got free on the outside was when Sadio Mane shifted across from his left-sided position to an inside-right role, becoming the fourth man down that side. Again, this got Henderson free on the outside, but Liverpool were using a lot of resources simply to get Henderson into a crossing position — and Mane, of course, wasn’t available to attack the far post.

Liverpool’s equaliser was interesting because it came via a very minor positional mistake from Fornals that was immediately punished.

With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the ball, Fornals was cutting off the passing lane into Mohamed Salah — but because he has been tasked with shutting down Liverpool’s dangerous right flank, he is also preoccupied with the notion that Alexander-Arnold could receive the ball in space. Therefore, when Oxlade-Chamberlain opens up his body, Fornals shuffles slightly towards Liverpool’s right-back.

But Oxlade-Chamberlain then reverses the ball into Salah, who is fouled on the edge of the box. From the free kick, Salah tees up Alexander-Arnold’s beautiful curled strike. West Ham couldn’t stop Salah and Alexander-Arnold from combining to score from a set piece but really, they were undone by the difficulty of shutting off passes to both in open play.

In the second half, Fornals’ presence down the left flank became more relevant in the attacking phase of play. This might be considered West Ham giving Liverpool a taste of their own medicine — Fornals “does a Henderson” and makes a run to the outside, with Benrahma infield and Cresswell higher up.

That type of approach play is typical of Moyes’ managerial career — at a time when others were focusing on attempting to dominate the centre of the pitch, Moyes’ strategy at Everton largely depended upon crossfield balls and working two-versus-one or three-versus-two situations down the wings. Sure enough, Alexander-Arnold, Henderson and Salah are all out towards that flank to shut them down.

Fornals became more dangerous on the run — here, slipping in Benrahma and then making an arched run to the far side in an attempt to overload Joel Matip two-versus-one, with Alexander-Arnold struggling to get back.

And that type of run became a theme of the second half. For West Ham’s second goal, Fornals sprinted forward to support Jarrod Bowen on the counter-attack and looked up to see where the space was. It was between Matip and Alexander-Arnold. Matip was dragged towards the ball, Alexander-Arnold didn’t recover his position quickly enough, and Bowen slipped in Fornals to make it 2-1.

Five minutes later, it’s a similar thing — this time Antonio is the ball carrier, and Fornals looks up and sees space in the same channel. This time, he runs across Antonio and into an inside-left position, then varies his run at the last minute, ducking inside and then pointing that he is going in behind Matip. Antonio slips the ball through, but Fornals — from an offside position — sees his shot saved by Alisson.

And although West Ham’s crucial third goal came from a corner, the build-up again involved Fornals.

On this occasion, for perhaps the first time in the game, he is in a typical No 10 position, receiving the ball between the lines from Bowen and knocking it in behind for Antonio, whose shot is blocked by Virgil van Dijk, winning the corner. Bowen swung it in, and Kurt Zouma headed home at the far post.

The contradiction from Moyes’ successful period at Everton was that he was a reactive coach who scouted opponents relentlessly — more so than other managers at the time — and devised a tactical plan accordingly, but had a poor record when it came to defeating bigger sides. There were few classic demonstrations of his strategy working perfectly.

This, though, felt like a landmark victory. West Ham largely nullified Liverpool’s strength down the flank and then roared forward to take advantage of their weakness down the same side to move ahead of Klopp’s side in the Premier League.

Sixth last season was an excellent performance. This time, West Ham might be better.

Replies - Newest Posts First (Show In Chronological Order)

gph 2:07 Tue Nov 9
Re: Great Article on Fornals and the way he plays.
Think this needed the pictures.

Moderator rights for Irish!

Lily Hammer 1:44 Tue Nov 9
Re: Great Article on Fornals and the way he plays.
Sean dive?

* SWAN dive

Lily Hammer 1:42 Tue Nov 9
Re: Great Article on Fornals and the way he plays.
Excellent observant article.

We really are a well drilled unit. There’s a video from a few years back called something like Moyes Masterclass in Pressing. I think he’s working with some youths, but it is first class lessons in the savoire faire of pressing. It’s an art form, that takes energy and discipline, but it fucks opponents up.

I also loved the tactic used on Salah, at least in the second half. When he jinks his way around or into our area, do NOT tackle him, just crowd him out. The little cunt is always waiting for the slightest contact, which is his cue to Sean dive for a free kick or penalty.

The only way the mighty Liverpool scored was a great free kick after a Salah dive, and then from a well taken shot that was only possible after a ricochet deflection that luckily fell to Origi. Apart from that they only created two clear chances, both from Mané. One volley straight at Fabianski, and that heart attack header that went wide at the death. I don’t think the Mickeys have been limited to so few decent chances for about 4 years or more.

We are no pushovers.


Thanks Irish 12:13 Tue Nov 9
Re: Great Article on Fornals and the way he plays.
Thanks Irish another gem

epsom 11:27 Mon Nov 8
Re: Great Article on Fornals and the way he plays.
Any Old Iron


Any Old Iron 11:19 Mon Nov 8
Re: Great Article on Fornals and the way he plays.
Irish, where does this article originate?

tricky trev 9:19 Mon Nov 8
Re: Great Article on Fornals and the way he plays.
Good article

BRANDED 8:45 Mon Nov 8
Re: Great Article on Fornals and the way he plays.
He eats paella

lab 8:42 Mon Nov 8
Re: Great Article on Fornals and the way he plays.
Nice .

Balto 8:34 Mon Nov 8
Re: Great Article on Fornals and the way he plays.
Thanks Irish. Keep digging out these articles.

I think the workrate of Fornals, Bowen and Benni combined feels like playing aiagist 12 men.

How many times have we seen one of these three lose the ball high up the field only to reappear in our defence moments later and win it back. In short, you have to beat them twice to get anywhere if you are an opposing player. Without wishing to detract from Benni and Bowen Fornals engine is amazing. HIs joy for others is palpable.

mallard 6:14 Mon Nov 8
Re: Great Article on Fornals and the way he plays.
Cheers Irish

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