Pablo Fornals is becoming an increasingly influential figure in what is West Ham United’s best season for 35 years.

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The former Villarreal midfielder used to divide opinion among some West Ham fans.

The Spaniard – much like the team – endured an up and down couple of seasons following his £24million move to West Ham.

But you would have to go a long way now to find anyone who continues to doubt the 24-year-old.

Crystal Palace v West Ham United - Premier League
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The steady rise of El Cockney

Fornals has been excellent this season, marrying workrate with good use of the ball, assists and goal threat.

He has become a key player under Moyes and was one of West Ham’s best players in the 4-0 FA Cup triumph over Doncaster and the 3-2 win at Crystal Palace which elevated them to fourth in the table.

A superbly taken goal in the cup was followed up by his pass to Michail Antonio which had the Palace defence in complete disarray for West Ham’s equaliser on Tuesday night. It was exquisite.

The timing, execution – with his weaker foot no less – angle and confined space he had to work in made it all the more special.

As well as the “pre-assist” – as it is now being recognised in football analysis circles – Fornals pitched in with his usual relentless hard graft.

To watch Fornals play for West Ham anyone would think he grew up going to Upton Park as a boy, standing in the chicken run, dreaming of one day wearing the claret and blue. Such is his infectious enthusiasm and desire. Such is the way he celebrates goals and good play from his teammates.

Photo by MATT DUNHAM POOL AFP via Getty Images

Fornals displays prove sage prediction from Balague right as Moyes irons out the creases

The midfielder’s displays are proving the wise words of Spanish football expert Guillem Balague right.

The pundit delivered high praise about Fornals when he signed for the Hammers, calling him a ‘genius in the pass’.

And now West Ham fans have really started to see Balague’s sage prediction crystalise, much to their delight.

“Brilliant signing, 23-years-old,” Balague said at the time on Twitter.

“In the mould of a FCB (Barcelona) midfielder, genius in the pass, drives the ball with quality. Big gaps in concentration without ball but can be added to his game. Winning mentality.”

Moyes has certainly eradicated any gaps in concentration without the ball.

And Fornals’s winning mentality is rubbing off on his teammates too.

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Credit where it is due over Fornals signing

So it is worth, in this often cynical and fickle football world we all inhabit, remembering who signed Fornals.

The much maligned Mario Husillos and Manuel Pellegrini.

At one stage, when things were not all sweetness and light for Fornals, the usual suspects were peddling soundbites from the owners David Sullivan and David Gold that signing the Spaniard was a mistake (The Guardian).

He was used by certain sections as a stick to beat Husillos and Pellegrini with.

But along with Lukasz Fabianski, Fabian Balbuena and – when fit and in form – Issa Diop, Fornals proves the duo didn’t always get it wrong.

With Fornals pulling the strings it shows they did get some right. And the future looks bright.

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