Debunking the Fernando Forestieri diving myth

Sheffield Wednesday - The Owls

Sheffield Wednesday's Fernando Forestieri will serve a two-game ban after being sent off in back-to-back matches against Hull City and Preston North End

It is easy to make assumptions about Fernando Forestieri. We've all done it - myself included.

The first time I ever came into contact with the Argentine-born Italian forward, he was a recently-acquired Watford player appearing in a Championship fixture at Hillsborough, on a crisp Tuesday night in November 2012.

Much to my surprise, he wasn't wearing gloves.

Nevertheless, as far as I was concerned, there was no way this scrawny kid from the same town as Lionel Messi would survive an evening like this, never mind a full season in England's second tier. He promptly equalised with a tidy finish in the 18th minute, as the Hornets went on to win 4-1.

It was the third of eight goals scored by Forestieri that season - including a further two against the Owls at Vicarage Road - with 10 assists also arriving in 28 appearances. A sock in the mouth of yours truly.

By the time Forestieri arrived at Hillsborough as a Wednesday player in late August 2015, I was undoubtedly stirred, knowing what he was capable of in an attacking sense. But I was still none the wiser as to the defensive benefits he would bring.

Wednesday paid a reported £3m for the 26-year-old, according to the Express, which, not taking into account the arrival of Lucas Joao earlier last summer, was their highest expenditure since Puff Daddy & Faith Evans were at No.1 in the UK singles chart with 'I'll Be Missing You'.

In hindsight, they should have paid double that, because he is two players in one.

As we head into March, Forestieri is the Yorkshire side's top goalscorer with 12, and he's provided five assists. Of those 12, at least four will make the club's goal of the season shortlist (which is some feat this year) but it's the things that will go unnoticed which are most impressive for me.

Never before have I seen a player who combines the rough with the smooth quite like he does. For every 30-yard strike somersaulting its way towards the top corner, there's an interception he should never have got to, or a pinch off the toes of a midfielder to start a new attack.

No Championship forward has won more tackles than Forestieri (47) this season, while only Bristol City's Luke Freeman, who's procured the next most (40), has won possession more times in the final third (29) than Wednesday's number 45 (26).

  PositionTeamWon TacklePoss Won Att 3rdWas Fouled GAMEAppearancesMins Played
Fernando Forestieri FW Sheff Wed 47 26 2.07 27 2,186

Clearly, Forestieri is far from the work-shy foreigner many are keen to paint him and tellingly, only four Championship forwards have been fouled more times than he has per game (2.07) this season. That tally would almost certainly be higher if this bizarre reputation for being soft didn't go before him.

Forestieri was clearly fouled by Michael Dawson on Friday, of that there is no question. But because of the Italian's red at Preston six days earlier - after Paul Gallagher had pushed him to the ground - referee Tim Robinson was all too happy to brandish a second yellow, despite that fact that Dawson got up to apologise immediately.

In doing so, Robinson showed the sort of pre-judgment usually reserved for people who've never before tried Henderson's Relish.

No it's not 'like Lea & Perrins'.  Just as Forestieri is no namby-pamby foreigner.

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