This article is written by Stephen Lawrence
So here we are towards the end of October and our leading goal scorer has a very Italian sounding name. Had we been told this would be the case by a fortune teller before the season started then we would have all been visualising Zaza capturing the headlines with some typical Italian style flamboyant strikes. We wouldn’t have imagined that our make shift right back, come wing back, come right winger would have stolen the headlines with his pin-point headers, even if Antonio is about as Italian as names can come.
Zaza went to press on arrival at the London Stadium saying that he wanted to emulate Paulo di Canio and his success in claret and blue. Lofty ambition, but why not be bold? And perhaps if that attempted overhead kick against Sunderland had gone in, then he would have propelled himself to permanent Hammers fame for one of our most outrageous goals in the Premier League and the comparisons with Di Canio may have begun. Unfortunately not, and until he does score a wonder strike, he’s still going to be associated with the most calamatous fail ever in an international penalty shoot out! Luckilly, he wasn’t a West Ham player at the time or we would have all been suffering.
Looking at his record, there are reasons to be cautious. He’s an international, but his 14 caps for Italy have only yielded just a single goal, that back in September 2014. His strike rate for Juventus is better at 1 goal per 3 games, a similar rate to his prior club Sassuolo. But Juventus have loaned him out and clearly don’t see him as first choice for them. So here he his plying his trade at West Ham and, by many recent accounts, working hard.
But will hard work cut it? Based on his goal scoring record back in Italy, if he played, say, 30 games across the season, we’d expect 10 goals from him. Is that enough? Not if he’s billed as the 20+ goal headline striker we’ve been chasing. His work rate certainly seems to have increased over the past two matches but the concern must be that he just doesn’t look dangerous, not so far. Compare him with Defoe in the Sunderland game. Every time Defoe got the ball in or near our box he looked like he could create an opportunity. He looked very dangerous. And importantly, he knew where the space was to be created so that his team mates could get the ball to his feet. Something’s awry with Zaza in the sense that he’s not even making chances let alone scoring goals.
So what’s the problem? Is he better suited to playing as part of two up front? Are our play-makers not playing to his strengths? Is he taking a long time to adjust to the Premier League? Is he not up to it? He seems a likeable guy and he’s working hard to make an impact. If he was unlucky and keepers were making great saves or he was hitting the woodwork, it would clearly just be a matter of time until he got the breakthrough. But something’s not working properly right now. Either our tactics need to change to better bring him into the game or we need to consider how long we hang onto him. Either way, it doesn’t look like he’s suited to the style we’re playing him in and he’s only going to lose confidence and find the fans on his back if the goals don’t come. The manager needs to decide; either change the system up front or change the player. It seems fruitless to carry on regardless. Best of luck Zaza whatever the outcome. Perhaps you’ll surprise us all get a hat-trick against Chelsea.
I certainly hope he comes good, with confidence comes a few yards of extra pace, when he played in the friendly against us for Juventus he looked top drawer, running in behind the defence and took his finish really well. For whatever reason he is struggling at the minute and due to the way his contract works I am worried he may be farmed out before his luck turns and maybe we will never see the Zaza of Sassuolo, he is physical enough for the premier league for sure, we have rarely played to his strengths and he hasn’t once been played with another genuine centre forward. I like him but I can understand all of the criticism because other than that overhead kick he hasn’t looked remotely threatening. It may even be worth seeing if playing him during the last 30 – 35 minutes of games may allow him to make a greater impact. At the moment other than running around a lot he isn’t offering us the goals we need from him and at £20m we might have to look at him as just an expensive loan signing that didn’t work out.