At times last season, West Ham United often appeared to be a one-man team, with the turncoat Frenchman Dimitri Payet the catalyst for everything good that was going on. When Payet appeared disinterested and disengaged earlier this season, before his big money move back to Marseille, the team suffered greatly on the pitch and the morale of the team seemed to dip as well.
When Payet left in fairly unhappy circumstances, questions of who would replace him on the pitch started being asked. The Geordie Giant, Andy Carroll, is probably the most talented goal scorer on the team, but his inability to stay fit means that he can’t be relied on to be “the man” on the pitch for any team. Mark Noble has the passion to be the leader and the captain, but his body is beginning to betray him, as the number of years playing football are started to take their toll on him. Winston Reid is a fantastic leader and defender, but he cannot change games on his own.
Manuel Lanzini in London derbies:— West Ham Central (@WestHam_Central) May 6, 2017
Manuel Lanzini, as he showed in the game against Tottenham Hotspur, is now the key player for the Hammers. He might not be the best player the Hammers have, but if West Ham is to challenge for European positions next season, Lanzini is the player that is most critical for success. He scores big goals in big games, as his record in London derbies shows, with 9 goals in 15 games. The team should be built to take advantage of Lanzini’s strengths and the players that are brought into the side in the summer transfer window should be able to work in a formation that brings out the best in Lanzini.
Lanzini can play on the wing, but can also play in a classic number 10 role right behind the striker. West Ham actually have too many wingers right now, with Andre Ayew, Michail Antonio, Robert Snodgrass, and Sofiane Feghouli also best playing on the wing, and Edmilson Fernandes has been used both a wing-back in a 3-4-3 formation and as a central midfielder.
Whether Slaven Bilic sticks with the 3-4-3 or goes back to the 4-2-3-1 formation next season, it will be critical to get a striker that can play as the lone attacking forward. While a target man like Andy Carroll is great to have, it would be nice to have someone with a work rate and the instinct to go on runs to create space behind him for the other attacking players to exploit. The one thing that Jonathan Calleri brings to the table as a striker is his movement, and finding a player with that sort of movement and the ability to score goals (and not take dodgy shots looking for style points) will help free up space for Lanzini to operate. The team is now in the hands of a small Argentinian maestro, may he lead this team to glory for many years to come.