“Cresswell. Sends it in towards Rice. He couldn’t get near it. Snodgrass was hoping it would drop – LANZINI! It’s incredible! What a goal from Manuel Lanzini!”
Commentary to send a shiver down every West Ham fan’s spine, that; Lanzini’s stunning 94th minute equaliser sparking jubilant scenes in each of our living rooms, up and down the country, and all over the world.
In the future, fans will be saying ‘I was there’, with Lanzini instantly writing his name in Hammers folklore, and helping us to set a new record in the process (and this one is actually wanted).
We became the first team in the history of the Premier League to avoid defeat having been losing by three or more goals as late in the game as the 81st minute.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: even though appearances have been few and far between of late, Manuel Lanzini knows how to play football.
He signed in July 2015, originally on a loan which was made permanent the following season, and his debut was as a substitute in defeat against eventual champions Leicester City.
Things improved rapidly, though: that season, he scored the opening goal against Liverpool in a 3-0 away win in that memorable time under Slaven Bilic, scoring six goals in the league and forming a formidable partnership with Dmitri Payet.
Oh, that was a season and a half, wasn’t it? 62 points, a record in the Premier League and finishing 7th.
Eighteen goals from that midfield pair, and there would have been more had both of them not been injured midway through the season: Lanzini picked up a knock in training in December 2015, with a further injury in January against Liverpool keeping him out for some weeks.
I always think that Lanzini’s contribution that season was overshadowed by the impact that Payet made on the team.
Yes, the Frenchman’s presence gave us excitement that we hadn’t experienced in years, but Lanzini was also impressive in his role, stepping up when Payet became injured, and the following season arguably becoming a better player following Payet’s acrimonious departure.
Indeed, in the next campaign, Lanzini took on Payet’s mantle, scoring five goals, including the winner in the 65th minute against… you guessed it, Spurs. They must be sick of the sight of him. Frankly, that alone would be enough for him to earn accolade after accolade, and he was rewarded for his efforts during what was to be a tougher season for us, by winning the players’ Player of the Year award.
Injury has affected Lanzini’s West Ham career. He was sidelined for nearly nine months in May 2018, and last season he suffered a broken collarbone in the defeat against Burnley.
However, he also signed a new contract in the same season, at the end of August 2019, extending his stay until June 2023. Lanzini himself said: ‘I love London, I love the Club, I am happy here, we have a very good team, we have a very good manager and the Club wants to change and to be in more competitions in the future and that’s good for us.’
Of course, things change, and as it became clear that West Ham were really struggling, in December 2019 Manuel Pellegrini was sacked, later to be replaced by David Moyes.
This, combined with injury, has severely limited Lanzini’s opportunities: this season, it has taken him until the Spurs game to get his first appearance as a substitute, and even his 94th minute heroics weren’t enough to feature in the following match against Manchester City, and he only appeared in the final minutes in the defeat against Liverpool.
I hope that Lanzini can have a decent run in the side and fulfil his potential. On his day, he is some player, and he’s scored some beauties, and created a fair few too.
Remember Marko Anautovic? He assisted a fair few of his goals; remember the one he set up at Stoke City where he just pinged it over the defender for the striker to score against his former club?
That 2017/18 season, he set him up for a lovely goal against Arsenal too, and really was in fine form, scoring five times and setting up another six.
David Moyes clearly has his gameplan, and to be fair it has worked, with that run of extremely tough games at the start of the season yielding eight points.
You might reasonably say, why tinker with the side? But as the season continues, and injuries start to bite, maybe Lanzini is exactly the player that you want to come in, someone creative, a little bit different. I believe he still has a role to play in the team. And if and when he does, if he can stay fit and continue where he left off against Spurs, who knows – he might become difficult to shift out of the side once again.