Written by : @samizgould
It’s been a real pleasure in pre-season to see Manuel Lanzini starting to get back in full flight. Last year’s injury while with the Argentina national squad denied fans the opportunity to see what he can do in an attacking system designed for players like him. We knew that when Manuel Pellegrini signed to join West Ham the player he was most looking forward to working with was the Argentinian maestro. To return in the time frame he did from a horrific ACL injury was truly remarkable. The 10 games he managed to play at the end of the season were simply about getting some sort of touch and confidence in his knee, testing just how far he could push it after the lengthy lay off.
This season is – thankfully – completely different for Manuel Lanzini. He finally has a series of other technical players to work with who can help him unlock so many parts of his game we haven’t seen the best of. In previous seasons he’s been so heavily relied on as the sole creator in midfield, which meant opposition teams have been able to mark him heavily and limit his impact. Only in his first season with Payet on the left has he been given room to manoeuvre. Teams weren’t yet aware of the threat he had to offer, and because the Frenchman was tearing up the wing drawing in defenders from across the pitch, Lanzini was left to his own devices and able to use the space very effectively.
The rotation of the technical players across the wings and attacking midfield so far in pre-season has again reminded us of those times as we are given just a hint of the incredible attacking potential and options available to Pellegrini. Haller has given the team a focal point that scares defences but the energetic, tricky buzz of Fornals, Anderson and Lanzini in behind will terrify not just defences but the midfields of any team we face. Every single one of our attacking players can take up any attacking position on the field and swap endlessly. This makes marking any one player extremely difficult if not impossible. Lanzini has always needed more players on the same wavelength. His passes into threatening areas haven’t always had players on the end of them and his runs weren’t often rewarded with passes accurate enough to put him through. But already we are seeing promising glimpses of this changing. When you add the combination of dribbling, flicks, tricks and flat out quality passing we could be a terrifying prospect in attack if our players make the right choices and build their combinations.
The determination from Lanzini to return from injury to his best and the attacking flair that now surrounds him aren’t the only reasons we are starting to see his true capabilities. His role starting on the wing also seems to be a factor. His best season was the last at the Boleyn ground, where he played wide on the right relying on counter attacking opportunities. He has played most of his pre-season matches starting at left wing. Of course, he is constantly rotating, but his role on the wing enables him to run at players at speed and that has always been his greatest strength. In the centre of midfield, he gets caught by a wall of players in front of him who use their physicality and he doesn’t get the flow and freedom he likes.
The jewel is a player of true quality and can play any attacking midfield role very well but giving him space to run and dribble to get at players and defences will help us get the best out of him. If he can have a positive start to the season in the same way he’s started preseason then hopefully we will soon see him signing an extended contract to keep him in East London and show everyone in the league just how good he can truly be.