Mitchell Hall > West Ham found themselves still without the massively influential Declan Rice as they faced off against an in-form Burnley last week, whilst captain Mark Noble also found himself side-lined, leading to a surprising and nerve wracking announcement of creative midfielder Manuel Lanzini starting in the more deep lying role. What started as a desperate last resort position change appeared to turn into a masterstroke by manager Moyes, as Lanzini provided a key role in their eventual 2-1 win, with some fans hailing the performance as the standout on the pitch. Could this be a new lease of life for West Ham’s jewel?
Many fans found themselves concerned at Lanzini’s assignment to the role, the relatively small and agile creative midfielder certainly did not seem a fit for a rough holding midfielder position on the best of days and Burnley are a notoriousy physical team on top of that. That said, Lanzini at no point looked intimidated or bullied, using his ball control, speed, and distribution to run the midfield on the ball and distribute to players further up the field. Lanzini’s close control and composure was key in possession in the central third and his vision accounted for much of the Hammer’s attacking threat, with midfield partner Tomas Soucek making up the physical difference and going for every header and 50/50. The duo seemed to compliment each other perfectly, leaving the question… what does Moyes do next?
Lanzini’s opportunity came after West Ham’s two first choice captains were ineligible, two players who Moyes will certainly want to get on the pitch as soon as possible, but it would be undeniably harsh to drop the Argentine after such an assured display. Seeing as Rice is a doubt for the upcoming clash at Everton, it is not unlikely that Lanzini will once again be asked to play the deep lying playmaker role. However, though this time will be against a less physical Everton side, their incisive passing and crossing threat will make Lanzini’s defensive duties considerably less comfortable than a less technical Burnley.
This is still a serious shot at a resurgence for ‘the jewel’ after a rocky few years (since a catastrophic injury picked up on international duty). Many fans had expressed a willingness to let the playmaker go, largely due to the number of alternative players who preceded him in the pecking order for his preferred attacking midfield/winger role, however West Ham have a severe lack of depth in the holding midfield department and if he continues with performances like this he will certainly be worth keeping. This is only made more important by the imminent retirement of Mark Noble, leaving the squad without a recognised senior holding midfielder on the bench.If Lanzini can fill this role then the implications for the squad’s versatility and depth, made all the more necessary if European competition is secured, will be enormous. Everton may well be the test to determine whether Lanzini has a future in the role and the club, or if this standout performance was a fortunate anomaly.