Is Manuel Lanzini emerging as top-six quality at West Ham United?
Manuel Lanzini was expected to be the successor to Dimitri Payet after the Frenchman left West Ham United earlier this year. The Argentine midfielder has a lot of technical ability and is capable of running the game from the centre of the park. In addition to his classy contributions in possession, he has a knack of scoring important goals and he has stepped up his game since the arrival of David Moyes as manager. The new boss has focused on organising the Hammers at the back, but the solid foundations has provided the attacking players with a platform to express themselves. Marko Arnautovic has improved, but it is Lanzini that is looking to be the most influential in the final third.
After good displays against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, it was important that the Hammers maintained that intensity against the rest of the league. Although it is too early to suggest it has clicked after their 3-0 win away to Stoke City, due to the terrible form of the opposition, it does maintain their positive momentum. Lanzini played a significant role in the fixture, showing both the positive and negative sides to his game.
The Hammers took an early lead from the penalty spot. This was won by Lanzini as he carried the ball into the box and appeared to dive to win the spot-kick. It is likely that the midfielder will become the first Premier League player to be given retrospective punishment for diving and that will see him miss the next couple of matches at least. It was great work in the build-up to the penalty being awarded and underlined the threat posed by the midfielder, but he needs to eradicate that from his game.
Lanzini finished the match as the West Ham player with the most key passes as he completed four on Saturday. This included another assist as he set-up Diafra Sakho for the third goal to put the result beyond doubt. More impressively, the 24-year-old had a pass success rate of 90%, which is incredible considering a lot of his possession was in the final third. He looked to be approaching his classy best and that is why the likely suspension will frustrate Moyes and the supporters, as he will be a huge miss if banned as expected.
The display against Stoke City showed that Lanzini now had a free role in behind the front two and that he had been given encouragement to express himself. At every opportunity, he would run with the ball and try to beat opposition players. Several managers in the Premier League prefer their players to be regimented and stick to playing percentage football, but Moyes appears to have given license to the Argentine.
His dribbling caused a lot of problems for the home side as he completed five during the match at a success rate of 83%. West Ham were at their most dangerous when their attacking midfielder was running at the Stoke defence, as he created space for the other attackers to fill and exploit. Dribbling for dribbling’s sake can be a mistake, but Lanzini’s runs were purposeful and his decision making was close to perfect when it came to distribute the ball at the right time.
Moyes will want to see Lanzini express himself in the final third as he is the player most likely to create a clear-cut chance in the squad. However, every player will be required to work hard out of possession and contribute to the shape of the team. The Argentine may not be the best at doing this, but there was an obvious work rate to his game yesterday as he pressed from the front well. He completed his only attempted tackle and wasn’t dismissive of going back to defend when required.
This performance could have been the one to propel Lanzini to new heights over the Christmas period and it still might be. However, a cloud hangs over it due to the unnecessary dive. If given a ban, he may see it as one worth taking as it did result in West Ham taking an early lead and knocked the stuffing out of Stoke City. That said, it means that he could miss a couple of important fixtures, including next week’s winnable home match against Newcastle United. If he does have to sit out, it will be a major boost for the visiting team.
At the time of his arrival, Lanzini was an unknown quantity in England and there would have been few West Ham fans getting excited about his signing. He made an immediate impact and continued to improve with every first-team appearance. At the age of 24, he is now emerging as the leader of the Hammers’ attack. If he can deliver this level of performance on a consistent basis and eradicate the diving, he could become a player capable of playing for a top-six side.