Following Dmitri Payet’s departure from West Ham, the club must now turn to Manuel Lanzini as their key attacker and the Argentine must deliver.
He faces a heavy burden – following in the footsteps of the talented Frenchman but Lanzini’s importance to Slaven Bilic’s side has doubled given Payet’s departure. Despite a shaky start to the season and statistics which were much less impressive than his numbers in the final weeks of the 2015-16 season, Payet still held much importance to West Ham. He was the talisman and the creative force in attack.
Without him, not one player stands out who Bilic can call upon to single-handedly turn around the result of a game. Though supporters will not like to admit it – Payet’s departure was a sign of disaster for the club. They must find someone to turn to and quickly.
Lanzini is the obvious choice. He holds the key to West Ham’s attacking success. So far this season he has scored four goals and provided two assists for the Hammers in the Premier League from an advanced midfield role and he remains the club’s most involved attacker following Payet’s departure.
The Argentine is no stranger to pressure. Despite his young age, the 23-year-old was the player his native club River Plate turned to when competing in the Superclassico. The fierce South American rivalry matched up two of the biggest clubs in Argentina and Lanzini was a player destined to shine. He did just that – scoring the quickest goal in the history of the derby when he gave his side the lead in less than 45 seconds. River Plate went on to draw 1-1 against Boca Juniors but Lanzini had played his part – securing a draw for the underdogs and writing his name in South American history.
Lanzini excelled when he was given responsibility and he was proud to call himself the talisman of his childhood club back home. West Ham face a far more complex challenge in England. They are battling against their own supporters who are angry with off-field decisions such as the move to the Olympic Stadium. The distraction of Payet’s stubbornness to move and pressures from the media as Bilic’s side continue to show inconsistencies are also rife. Relegation from the Premier League is what is at stake and everyone in football knows how difficult it is to get back to the top flight following the axe.
West Ham simply have to turn things around and losing their star player is not the way Bilic would have foreseen the January transfer window going.
However, despite off-field distractions and pressures from around England, the Hammers still have talent up front and Lanzini is one of the stars who will thrust his team up the table. Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho are often seen as the players who will bring goals and change the dynamism of the team but Lanzini is the player with the most natural talent and he is the one currently in the squad who can change things around.
His South American flair is clear to see and after sealing a four-year deal following a £9.4 million permanent switch, the club rested huge responsibility on his shoulders. It’s time Lanzini demonstrates why he has been pursued by some of the biggest clubs in Europe.
He showed his worth against Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace, providing a goal and two assists but he needs to start lifting his team against the big sides.