What a difference a week makes for Gianluca Scamacca. Just a few days prior he was sat at the London Stadium looking thoroughly fed up – like most of us – after watching West Ham’s frustrating draw with Aston Villa.
Yet last night he was all smiles after a goalscoring return to first-team action. The £36m striker scored and assisted as the Irons steamrolled AEK Larnaca 4-0 to seal a spot in the last eight of the Conference League.
It was a welcome return to form for a man who’s endured a stop-start season in Claret & Blue.
In European competition, he’s been a revelation. Last night was his fifth goal in nine games (including four substitute appearances) as he’s enjoyed the more expansive attacking football West Ham have played against inferior opposition.
Domestically, it’s been a different story. West Ham tend to approach Premier League football with the courage of a snail crossing the M25. David Moyes’ obsession with defensive shape, a tactic which has thus far yielded just five clean sheets in 26 Premier League games, has hamstrung the Hammers’ attacking output across the board.
Scamacca has with just three goals in 16 games (though five of those were short appearances from the bench). But he’s not the only man to suffer. Jarrod Bowen has four in 26. And Michail Antonio has three in 23 (11 sub appearances). Despite Moyes’ criticisms of the Italian’s “physical data”, these numbers suggest that something far deeper may be at fault.
Just ask poor Danny Ings. The January signing was barely on speaking terms with the ball versus Villa as the Irons’ midfield created little in the way of meaningful chances for the new striker.
So, perhaps rather than criticising Scamacca, we should be looking at how we could make the most of his abilities. His hold-up play, alongside another striker to run in behind, could offer an extra attacking dimension to a team that desperately needs one.
If Mr Moyes needs any further inspiration, he need look no further than the turmoil of the 2006-7 season. Carlos Tevez, by all accounts one of the most gifted young strikers on the planet, had spent the majority of his time on the bench watching West Ham tumble towards the second tier.
By late February, we had 11 League games left to preserve our Premier League status. Alan Curbishley restored Tevez to the starting line-up. The Argentinian’s seven goals, alongside a series of inspirational displays, saved us from certain doom.
This time around we have 12 games left to save our season, starting with a must-win home fixture against Southampton in early April. With no fixture this weekend, we could find ourselves rooted in the relegation zone, just as we were all those years ago.
Could Scamacca be the man to save our season? Surely it’s worth a try.