When the permanent signing of Manuel Lanzini was announced from Qatari side Al-Jazira last summer, it was met with pure adulation from the West Ham faithful.
The marked successor to Dimitri Payet, (after he tucked tails and decided to leave for French soil) left The Jewel as the clubs most valuable and greatest asset.
Lanzini improved upon his 2015/16 campaign, scoring 8 goals and providing 2 assists, none more pivotal than his late winner against Tottenham, to secure the clubs position in the top flight for another season.
Leading from the front in a crucial role behind a plethora of strikers, he smashed all expectations set and gave us a promising look into the future, if the team were to be built around him.
We saw glimpses of how good the little Argentine could be last season, with stellar performances across the board, it was only a matter of time before he usurped his French team mate and stole the limelight. However, a lot of the expectations around Lanzini’s shoulders became more apparent after Dimitri Payet left.
Could he produce the similar key passes? Could he score a 25 yard free kick like Payet? Did he possess the similar skillful attributes and more importantly, could he guide the club to safety and onto the next level?
Although our lacklustre performances dominated the headlines this season, if not for his impressive displays, the slippery slope toward The Championship could have become a reality. Time and time again he put in match winning performances and elevated the team when they needed him most.
At times he found it difficult to operate and influence the game playing in such a deep central midfield role, however, given the time and space to influence the game he became deadly. His composure inside the box is second to none and he even added a touch of dead ball specialist to his game, with his immaculate free kick against Leicester.
With his brilliant first touch, immense ball control and a rabona to add, it left little doubt that he could fit the mould of a true West Ham player, playing The West Ham Way.
High points and Low points
High points: 1-0 W @ Crystal Palace, 1-0 W vs Tottenham, 2-2 D vs West Brom
Lanzini’s highs came in games in which he found himself most effective, one of his most meaningful goals in a claret and blue shirt came against Palace earlier in the season, when he scored a 16’ minute winner against The Eagles, stopping a five game winless run in the Premier League and taking us out of the relegation zone.
With three games left in the season, he etched himself into the annals of London Stadium history and West Ham folk-law by ending Spurs’ title hopes and saving us from relegation with a 65’ minute winner.
A memorable long range effort against West Brom helped us to a much needed point back in February.
As a club, we endured many painful defeats throughout the season, with thrashings home and away by the so called ‘big boys’. It’s tough to call a game in which Lanzini was that ineffective, however the big losses at home would suggest he struggled to influence the game like we know he can.
We might find it tough to keep hold of our star man this summer, with rumours circulating already that Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs are all interested in the Argentine play-maker. We’ll have to find solace in the fact he’s verbally committed to helping the club win and to staying in East London for a few years to come.
With a recent debut call-up to the Argentina squad with the likes of Messi and Di Maria, it’s clear to see the ceiling is as high as Manuel can take it, the promise this young man holds could be the key to West Ham’s future in the London Stadium over the next few years, and next season he’ll have to elevate his game to new heights to show not only The Premier League, but the rest of the world of what we know he’s capable of.