Pellegrini Will Unleash Lanzini
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 18 February 2019 at 7:59pm
Written by: @benfleet_hammer
The signs are very promising that we will see Manuel Lanzini back in claret and blue against Fulham on Friday. It isn’t overstating it to say that most West Ham fans have been eagerly anticipating his return ever since it was confirmed that he had ruptured his anterior knee ligament in training with the Argentina squad. Whether it’s half an hour as the playmaker behind the striker or two minutes wide left as part of an attacking three, many West Ham fans will be overjoyed just to see him back on the pitch. Whilst this may be true, there is definitely some intrigue as to how he could be used by Manuel Pellegrini.
Throughout Pellegrini’s managerial career he has been considered to be a supreme tactician. In particular, this reputation was forged during spells at Villarreal, Malaga and Manchester City. Reflecting upon his preferred systems during this time gives a definite indication of how he will intend to use Lanzini if and when he returns to full fitness.
We have the potential to see Lanzini used as one of the attacking midfield players in a 4-2-2-2 system. It is a system where two attacking midfielders sit behind the strikers and link the play between the midfield and the strikers, while full backs provide the width with tireless running up and down the flanks. This system is then adapted to a more traditional 4-2-3-1, sacrificing one of the strikers in games where we expect to have less of the ball and perhaps have to devote more attention to nullifying the attacking threat of the other team.
Juan Roman Riquelme, Santi Cazorla, Isco, Joaquin, David Silva, Samir Nasri… All players who have filled the role of a trequartista in Pellegrini’s sides with devastating effects. The term ‘trequartista’ is traditionally an Italian term to describe those attacking players who sit between the midfield and the strikers, playing between the lines and causing defenders all sorts of problems with their movement. That description is undoubtedly where Lanzini is at his best, and where he has produced his best football with West Ham and Argentina. The prospect of Lanzini and Felipe Anderson filling those positions behind Hernandez and Arnautovic is mouthwatering to say the very least.
One criticism levelled at Lanzini time and time again throughout his West Ham career is that he has lacked consistency. At times, he’s absolutely scintillating. On other occasions, he’s missing in action. One caveat which should be attached to that criticism is that Lanzini has been negatively affected by the limitations of the players around him and managers who have not utilised his attributes in the most effective way. The two most substantial pieces of evidence to support that defence are his impressive relationship with Dimitri Payet during our final season at Upton Park and the growing trust placed in him by Jorge Sampaoli.
When Lanzini was injured with Argentina, his teammates – including Lionel Messi – were reported to be devastated. Prior to his freak training ground injury, he had started their most recent World Cup warm-up game with European stars Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala and Ever Banega on the bench. Other stars such as Mauro Icardi were not even selected in the squad. Although we will never know, it’s likely that Sampaoli fully intended to use Lanzini as a key player in his World Cup squad. He was in Sampaoli’s first squad and had played in friendlies against Brazil and Italy prior to the World Cup. Sampaoli believed he could get the best out of Lanzini, and Pellegrini will do too.
If we are to get the best out of Lanzini on consistent basis, there is no better manager to be in charge of this team than Pellegrini. He has demonstrated throughout his career his ability to harness mercurial talents. A word of caution, however, we will need to be patient. The nature of Lanzini’s injury and the fact that he hasn’t had a pre-season to adapt to Pellegrini’s style will all mean there is no guarantee of instant results. Although circumstances and injuries may affect his plans and tactics, it’s almost certain that Pellegrini will have Lanzini performing at his best in the near future.