With the Dimitri Payet saga dragging the team down the standings into a forgettable first half of the season, West Ham were in need of a new talisman capable of getting the team out of its alarming rut. Michail Antonio was too occupied having to be played in every position imaginable, while Andy Carroll was too injured as usual. Someone on the offensive side had to become a regular force for the squad.
In came Manuel Lanzini’s breakout season.
The diminutive Argentine had shown flashes of his potential in his first season for the Hammers on loan from UAE side Al Jazira. But Lanzini confirmed himself as a premier playmaker in the Premier League in 2016-17. He simply was the chief creator and operator for the Hammers in the final third of the field, becoming the lynchpin to West Ham turning their form around and eventually moving away from a relegation fight in the final weeks of the season.
His 8 goal, 2 assist campaign is why Lanzini deservedly took home the Players’ Player of the Year Award, and received his first senior international cap for his country.
Current Team Placement
Despite the additions of Javier Hernandez and Marko Arnautovic adding to fierce competition for their positions, there is no question that Lanzini is the #1 playmaking/center attacking midfielder for Slaven Bilic. Lanzini is the only player currently on the roster who is truly irreplaceable, as no one else on the squad does what he does. The closest to matching his skill set is youngster Toni Martinez. But the Spaniard is still more ensconced with cutting in from the right then Lanzini’s preference to slightly cut from the left, receive the ball from midfield, and then still be around the center of the box to attack.
Goals For Season
A month ago, the thought of just keeping Lanzini at West Ham for this season was an absurd, overdramatic pondering made with no reality of the situation. Lanzini is the happiest he is in his career, just came off his best season and still wouldn’t be all the way ready to move to a Top 4 club. And West Ham wouldn’t even have any thought of selling him after becoming such a star performer for them.
But then the Neymar transfer saga came, and the rest of the football world has never been the same since. Now the possible ripple effect of Neymar’s transfer to PSG causing Liverpool to let Philippe Coutinho go to Barcelona (something they remain steadfast in not allowing at all) and lead to the Anfield club continuing its pursuit of Lanzini, should Countinho exit, can’t be laughed off. And yet, Bilic and the owning Davids will be even more stern in not selling their star playmaker than Jurgen Klopp and John Henry’s current insistence on keeping theirs.
Even if Coutinho does go to Barcelona (which yours’ truly still doesn’t think will happen), the Hammers have already prepared a new contract and salary bump for Lanzini. And with him likely staying, the 5’7” talent’s goals this season is to consolidate himself as one of the better creative forces in the world’s best league.