Lanzini: The Jewel in the Midfield Crown?
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 2 August 2019 at 9:29pm
Written by : @AndyJPhipps
After ten months out, having ruptured his interior knee ligament whilst training with the Argentine national side, Manuel Lanzini has returned to the West Ham starting eleven bright eyed and bushy tailed. With initial fears that the 26 year old might not be quite the same player he was, there were few signs of rust when he came on as a 76th minute substitute during February’s 3-1 home win against Fulham, bossing the midfield in a way that most injury free players would be proud of. The big question now, after scoring two very decent goals in preseason, is can Manuel push on and make his mark in West Ham’s exceedingly talented (and extremely competitive!) midfield?
Signing in July 2015, it was a very smart piece of business for the Hammers. Highly rated by the manager, Slaven Bilic, and with David Sullivan’s links to South America, we had an ace in our pack when it came to persuading the player to join. Being an already very experienced 22 year old, with nearly 150 games to his name, meant the loan deal, with an £8m option to buy, will go down one of the best negotiations of the last decade. Twenty six games, six goals and a good few assists later and the permanent option was quickly taken up.
Unfortunately for Manuel, however, the one thing that has plagued him throughout his career is form and consistency. In his first season, the youngster, still adapting to the rigours Premier League, was lucky enough to have the limelight firmly pointed away from him in the form of the world class Dimitri Payet. Far from being overshadowed by the abundantly technical Frenchman, Manuel was able to hone and focus on his own game without too much pressure- still ripping up no small of number of trees in the process.
Then things changed. Dimitri Payet, after the club had given him the best years of his career, pulled a stunt that has now become all too familiar with West Ham fans by pining and sulking for a move away. Not to worry. We had Manuel to step up and fill that technical void, ably supported by new signing Robert Snodgrass. Things didn’t quite go to plan, however, with Snodgrass having disagreements with Slav plus being hung out to dry by the Chairman and Manuel drifting in and out of form, only showing glimpses of his former self.
By the time manager Manuel Pellegrini entered the scene in 2018, it had been a torrid few years for the club as a whole, let alone for any one player. News that Pellegrini saw Lanzini as an integral part of his midfield plans for the club’s third season at the London Stadium only served to exacerbate the news that, less than three weeks after the new managers appointment, Lanzini had sustained a very serious injury.
One year later, West Ham, nonetheless, have great cause for optimism. Not only is Lanzini back and seemingly firing on all cylinders but the squad now has a glut of talent in midfield. With players like Anderson, Fornals, Antonio and Yarmelenko in attacking support and defensive cover from none other than Rice, Wilshere and Noble, Lanzini not only has less of a burden on his shoulders to produce but also has the sheer quality surrounding him that will supplement his game. It feels like the perfect reset button where, like in 2015, he has backing from his other, very able, teammates but avoids too much expectation, like when (post-Payet) he was the clubs single most creative outlet. Let’s also not forget that he now has a world class manager to guide him. Who knows what will happen with Lanzini this season but it’s hard to argue against the fact that the conditions are perfect for him to become the Jewel in West Ham’s midfield crown.