Manuel Lanzini stole the show against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend when the West Ham United midfielder’s stoppage-time screamer found a way into the top corner of Hugo Lloris’ net.
It was a strike that reminded everyone of the skill the Argentine once showed on a regular basis in east London, but Lanzini’s first Premier League goal since May 2019 also served as a stark wake-up call for how long it has been since the 27-year-old’s finest hours in claret and blue.
Only a few years ago, Lanzini’s talents secured his seat on the plane to the 2018 World Cup only for a serious knee injury sustained in training to rule the midfielder out of the competition without a ball being kicked.
The blow put a major dent into his West Ham career, while a fractured collarbone in November 2019 sent Lanzini back to the physio’s room for a further two months and his place in the side has never been a guarantee since.
Following David Moyes’ return to the London Stadium in December 2019, Lanzini saw out the league campaign with just six further starts from 11 appearances whilst failing to offer a single goal or assist and be left on the bench on eight occasions.
The new season came around, but new opportunities did not, with last weekend’s 3-3 thriller in north London serving as Lanzini’s first taste of top-flight action after four outings as an unused substitute.
Lanzini made good use of his brief cameo to steal the headlines in the dying seconds, and clearly left a positive impression on Moyes who has since come out in support of the 27-year-old.
“No doubt the injury has had an impact on where he is, but I don’t see a reason why he can’t get back to that level,” Moyes stated at his press conference on Friday, via quotes by the official West Ham website.
“I can see the improvement in training, he’s got competition and when you have competition the best thing you can do is what he did the other night.
“We’ve got really good competition for places at the moment and we want Manu to be a part of that because he has talent and we want talented players.”
Yet while Moyes is seemingly in support of Lanzini rediscovering his past form, it will take far more than just the Irons boss’ trust to see the five-cap Argentina international return to his best and once again display the talent that left Slaven Bilic stunned at how well he took to the Premier League. It was under the Croatian’s leadership that he played his best football, scoring 15 times and providing eight assists.
And speaking in November 2015, four months on from Lanzini’s initial arrival on loan from Al-Jazira, Bilic said via quotes by The Guardian: “I am only surprised that he hit it off straight away.
“I thought he was going to need more time because he played with al-Jazira. It is a good level, but you can’t compare that with the Premier League.
“He is a phenomenal player, who is very comfortable on the ball, no matter where he is and gives everything in every training session.”
Moyes will need to see that same determination in training to warrant starting Lanzini once more, as while his stunning strike at Spurs was special, it will only paper over the cracks seen in the midfielder’s game.
Lanzini only managed to create two big chances to score in the Premier League last season, while also spurning each of his three big chances to find the back of the net. Additionally, he only averaged 0.6 shots, 1.3 key balls, 18.5 accurate passes in the opponent’s half, 0.6 crosses and 1.4 successful dribbles a game, per SofaScore.
Now with Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals and Said Benrahma for competition in the attacking midfield line, Moyes will need more than the odd screamer to truly trust Lanzini.
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