I was going to be writing "Why Bilic needs to start Lanzini in centre midfield" but this weekend he beat me too it. So instead, I present to you the argument for him remaining there and not just be a stop gap while Noble served his suspension!
It is time to create behind the creativity.
The space in the final third is starting to disappear and we've struggled at times this season against sides with a slightly defensive approach. Most teams deploy a defensive midfielder to occupy the space between their defence and midfield, to only play in the first two thirds of the pitch with the sole aim of disrupting the opposition's attack. This is why the interceptions stat is being used more than ever, it's almost more important than tackling for this role.
So step away from the specialist. Allow Lanzini to have the ball at his feet with more space, deeper in the park. Instead of Payet getting a pass into his feet from Noble, let him drift inside knowing Lanzini can read his movement. Instead of Antonio getting the ball and turning, allow him to make a run with the knowledge that Manuel can spot it and has the ability to supply him. Create for the creative players.
This also gives the centre backs and goalkeeper an outlet. Having Lanzini there to drop back and collect the ball from their feet is a lot more comfortable for a defender than having to try and pick out a 30 yard pass or playing a 1-2 with Noble.
This could cause trouble for our skipper but it does allow Bilic to adapt. If we play with 4 at the back (once a RB has been signed of course), it means we can play Obiang either alongside Lanzini or behind a combo of Manuel and Noble. Slaven can adapt to the our opposition. It also allows the ability to change during game play without a substitution.
A case study of the tactics employed at Anfield will show how successful this system could be. The trio of Henderson, Wijnaldum and Lallana have been sitting behind their fast paced and interchanging front line with the latter two joining in the attacks. Look towards the Etihad and David Silva is doing what Santi Cazorla has been doing for over a season now but achieving all the plaudits.
Football is evolving, the playmaker used to be behind the striker but now there is a case for one in the middle of the park.
Lanzini boasts an impressive 88% passing success rate in the Premier League so far this season, achieving 85% against Tottenham last weekend. This wasn't an easy feat at White Hart Lane. Our team's average was 72%. Cazorla sits ahead with a stunning 91% so far this season, Silva is also up there with 88% and Lallana sits just behind on 86%. Despite Lanzini playing just the one game in a deeper role, his passing rate holds up well against the league's very best.
Going back to last weekend, only Aaron Cresswell (47) had more passes than the Argentinian (41) but more surprisingly he made the most blocks for West Ham (3 - joint with Ogbonna and Cresswell) and attempted the most tackles (7). For such an attacking looking player, he certainly does not shirk his responsibilities from the less glamorous side of the game.
He bolstered other impressive offensive stats that day, dribbles for example. His total of 6 was more than any player from the home side except for Eriksen who could only match Manuel. Payet made 8 and Antonio managed 7 out on the right wing. He also had 65 touches. Only Antonio could top that for the Hammers (69). This is a man who can read the game as well as play it.
Make no mistake, this is a big role, a big responsibility where a game can be won or lost. He may be a little man but he is our Little Gem, our Little Lanzini, and he could make that big difference to our play and season.