Manuel Lanzini played through an injury against Aston Villa(Image: James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)

The West Ham player who has most to gain over the winter break heading into Man City test

Manuel Lanzini has had a rough 2019/20 campaign but the winter break gives has given him the time off and chance to regather having been jeered against Liverpool


Manuel Lanzini's season reached its nadir during the defeat to Liverpool last month when David Moyes hauled the Argentine off after another ineffective 70-minute outing to jeers and cheers from the home fans at London Stadium.

It's been a season of struggle for West Ham, as we know. Manuel Pellegrini's stubborn tactics that didn't pay off, the injury to Lukasz Fabianski and subsequent disaster of Roberto in goal, Michail Antonio missing a huge chunk of time, not sacking Pellegrini soon enough, the appointment of David Moyes who was deemed surplus to requirements 18 months previously, we could go on.

All those have been contributing factors but also, the players do have to take the blame. Issa Diop has regressed tremendously since last season, Ryan Fredericks has looked incredibly shaky and struggled with fitness, Sebastien Haller has failed to fire following his £45m switch in the summer, Declan Rice has had to put out fires every week and seen his own form drop - again, we could go on.

The alarming slump in form of Lanzini however has been a huge concern, especially since Moyes came back to the club and has stood by the Argentine. Now, he has everything to gain.

Lanzini was a crucial cog when Moyes was last at the club as it was he, in partnership with Joao Mario and the brilliance of Marko Arnautovic up front, that helped steer the Hammers to survival after they ditched Slaven Bilic as manager.

Since then though, the 26-year-old has suffered a serious knee injury which sidelined him for eight months and it's not uncommon for players not to be able to reach the same levels after such a severe injury.

Lanzini tore ligaments in his knee during a pre-World Cup 2018 training camp with Argentina and eventually made his return in February 2019, starting eight of the last 12 games of the season for Pellegrini. Since then, he has penned a massive new contract at the club until 2023 which catapulted him into the top earners in east London.
Manuel Lanzini reacts as he is substituted against Liverpool(Image: Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

This season, it's been a struggle. Lanzini has been a regular under both Pellegrini and Moyes, only missing a month of action when he fractured his collarbone against Burnley after landing awkwardly.

Lanzini's return this season in the stats is just three assists and no goals and two of those assists came in the first three games of the season back in August.
Djibril Sidibe of Everton competes with Manuel Lanzini(Image: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

That prompted Moyes to launch into a passionate defence of his number ten post-match: "My thought is he [Lanizni] is arguably one of our best players, if not our best player.

"When I was here before I needed him as much as I needed Marko Arnautovic. He was such a good player for us and I am desperate to get him back to the levels he was at.

"I trust him, I believe he can get back to those levels. At the moment he is our flair, he is our person that might makes the difference. There is nobody more behind him than me."

The continued sidelining of Pablo Fornals has raised ire among the fans as the Spanish recruit from Villarreal in the summer has been benched in the last three games. Fornals was arguably West Ham's most in-form player in the final days of Pellegrini's ill-fated reign in the capital but has seen his game time diminish under Moyes as he stuck with Lanzini.

The midfielder has attempted just five through balls all season, created two "big chances" and is attempting 35 passes on average per game, down from 44 per game in 2017/18.

The arrival of Tomas Soucek on loan from Slavia Prague adds another dimension, with Lanzini and Fornals both on the bench against Brighton as the Czech midfielder partnered Mark Noble, Robert Snodgrass, Declan Rice and Michail Antonio in midfield.

Whether it's the recovery from injury taking longer than hoped, or if he is even fully recovered full stop, how he's being used by Moyes, who knows why Lanzini's form is suffering.

But he is the one who has the most to gain during the winter break as he has the confidence of his manager to deliver.