Guillermo Luis Farcuason Franco was a little-known entity when he signed on free agent status to West Ham United.
At the time of signing, the Argentine-born Mexican international striker had just completed international World Cup duty for a jittery Mexico side unsure of qualification.
Admittedly, I first saw Franco in the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup, where he played a major part in Mexico's triumphant campaign. The striker scored twice (including a penalty) against Costa Rica in the semifinal and once more in the 5-0 battering of USA in the Gold Cup final.
Mexico coach, Javier Aguirre heaped praise on Franco for his "target man" hold-up play and "team contribution" after he came on as a substitute in the 5-0 drubbing of the USA during July's Gold Cup final.
He looked a very effective player with great technical skills and an eye for goal. The only negative part was his age (33), his suspect fitness, and the fact he can be injury-prone.
So far, however, his sterling performances for West Ham have shown no such worries. Particularly pleasing was his performance against Chelsea last weekend. Playing as a lone striker, he showed strength, guile, and lots of effort.
Because West Ham's central midfield were preoccupied with keeping Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack, he kept coming in deep to pick up the loose balls and then releasing Alessandro Diamanti on the left and Jack Collison/Julien Faubert on the right. It was Franco's through ball to Collison which won West Ham the penalty.
He has more than made up for the loss of Carlton Cole, putting in great performances week after week as the focal point of the West Ham attack. But it was his partnership with the injured Cole that really caught the eye.
The Franco-Cole partnership coincided with possibly the best West Ham form this season, winning two matches, drawing two, and losing two. West Ham also scored 15 goals during that period. Begs the question, what if Carlton Cole had not suffered that knee injury, doesn't it?
Overall, he has connected on 190 out of 280 passes, i.e. a passing efficiency of 68 percent. Franco has shown that he has vision by creating 12 chances so far for his Hammers teammates. His assist tally is currently at one, but there will be more, I am sure. His goals to shots ratio is 14 percent, which is comparable to the in-form Bobby Zamora.
Gianfranco Zola had this to say about Guillermo Franco settling so quickly into life in the Premier League:
"Franco has been very good for me. He's proving to be a very good player for us. He's been a very good gain for West Ham United.
"He is an excellent guy, he works very hard and, above all, he's a very intelligent player. He does the right things for the team and I'm really impressed with him."
His never say die attitude and intelligent play have endeared the naturalised Mexican to the Upton Park faithful, earning him adoration and adulation alike. With Franco leading the attack, West Ham, buoyed by the excellent result against Chelsea, will surely want to make all that effort count when Portsmouth comes a-visiting on Boxing Day.
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