As the latest International break is upon us and we are slowly edging towards the new year and the expected return of West Ham United playmaker Manuel Lanzini, many members of the Claret & Blue Army have been asking themselves the same question, over the last few days.
With new manager Manuel Pellegrini looking like he’s found his strongest starting Xl, despite Friday night’s defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion, the question very much is, where would Lanzini fit back into this Hammers team, where would he play, who would he replace? Today, we are going to carry out a statistics-driven tactical analysis to attempt to answer that question, join us.
First, we are going to give you the lowdown on the injury that was suffered by Lanzini, how his recovery is coming along and when he is expected to return to the fold.
When preparing for the FIFA World Cup 2018 with Argentina last summer, Lanzini suffered a gruesome torn anterior cruciate ligament injury in his knee, that was rumoured at the time, to be a threat to his whole playing career.
Many of his international teammates, including Lionel Messi, wept when they were told of the severity of the injury suffered by the Hammer, which was caused by a simple twist movement in a mini-match in training.
The No.10 was almost immediately flown to Barcelona for surgery and it became apparat rent that the blow would not be career-threatening, however, would keep him our for a very long time, a provision timescale of around 15 months or the whole season, was being rumoured.
Now, just three months from when Lanzini is due back to full fitness, having been told he would instead be back in early 2019, after not the first injury blow of his short career so far, the 24-year-old appears to be making very good progress.
Can’t wait to see you back on the pitch soon, Manu! ? pic.twitter.com/PYLK8ykSq7
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) 9 October 2018
He has been back at the club’s Rush Green training ground working for a number of weeks and judging by the above Tweet from West Ham’s official Twitter account, is moving and recovering very well, continuing to be due back around the turn of the year.
Who Would He Replace?
This positive news for Pellegrini is what has ignited the debate and posed the aforementioned question, with the return of the Argentinian International not too far away, at all.
As it stands, with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Carlos Sanchez, and Andy Carroll still out injured themselves, the Chilean veteran boss Pellegrini appears to have judged a midfield and attack six as his best option in this area.
Within a modified 4-3-3 formation, Declan Rice, captain Mark Noble and Spaniard Pedro Obiang make up the three-man midfield, with a front three of Andriy Yarmolenko, Marko Arnautovic and Marko Arnautovic.
As ex-Irons striker Steve Jones told us and West Ham World live on LoveSport Radio on Monday evening, it has to be one of the three strikers that makes way for Lanzini.
His opinion and the general consensus among the club’s fan-base is that, if Lanzini was fit and raring to go now, the man to depart from the starting Xl would be summer signing from Borussia Dortmund, Yarmolenko.
Whether that would mean Lanzini being forced to play on the right side of a front three, or a change of formation to allow him to fulfil his usual central attacking midfield role, is not known yet.
For the next part of our analysis, we are going to compare the two players, Yarmolenko and Lanzini, top determine who is worthier of a place in the West Ham starting team, based on past form.
To pit the pairing up against each other, we have used Squawka.com’s fantastic Player Comparison Matrix to create a comparison of some of the two players’ key attacking statistics.
These stats have been taken from last season in both cases, when each star spent a considerable amount of the campaign on the sidelines, with various injury worries.
You will notice that Lanzini played almost double the games Yarmolenko did, however, only 901 more minutes, the stats are taken from the respective Premier League and Bundesliga 2017/2018 seasons.
Our first stat is goals scored with both managing to get a fair few for attacking midfielders, the West Ham man notching five and the then Dortmund star registering three, with very similar goals-per-game averages.
In terms of assists, Lanzini reigns supreme with six to Yarmolenko’s two at an average of one every six or so games, meanwhile, the Ukrainian can only produce one, every eight games.
The Argentinian was much more fluid in his passing last term than the Ukraine man, as you can see, weighing in with 88 per cent pass completion to his 79, and also has the better overall score of 583.90 to his 272.14, when all the stats are combined.
Overall, there can be little doubting that this comparison and the stats on display favour Lanzini, though, what they fail to account for is Yarmolenko’s impressive start to life in Claret & Blue, which has included two Premier League goals and a number of eye-catching performances.
In conclusion, our statistical tactical analysis has found that, with Lanzini edging ever closer to a return from injury in East London, the man he is most likely to replace in the side is Yarmolenko, slotting into either a wide right or his more accustomed CAM position.
In terms of the stats, he has been a much better player for the Irons in recent times than his new teammate was at his previous club, both players being hampered by injuries in recent times. But, there is very little in it and there can be no doubts that Lanzini will have to fight off the stiffest competition he has faced at the club, to get his first-team spot back.