Having been out with a severe knee injury since June 2018 when he ruptured his ACL while preparing for the FIFA World Cup 2018 with Argentina, Manuel Lanzini is finally close to a return to first-team football. And could even make it in tomorrow night’s Premier League clash with Fulham at London Stadium.
But with so many attacking options that have played so well during Manuel Pellegrini’s first season in east London, it’s difficult to see where there’s room in the starting Xl for the central-attacking midfielder when he fully returns. Where does Lanzini fit back into this West Ham team? Today we’re going to analyse.
Where does he fit and who will he replace?
Ever since joining from Al Jazeera on loan and then making his move permanent at the end of the 2015/2016 campaign. When fit, and he has endured his fair share of injuries, Lanzini has been a key player for the Hammers in midfield, on the wing, in his preferred number ten role or as a forward.
However, while the Argentine international received the early stages of treatment for his near-career-ending injury, Pellegrini brought in almost £100 million of talent in his first transfer window at the club. This included the likes of Felipe Anderson, who has more than filled the void left by Lanzini’s absence.
With just a few months of 2018/2019 remaining, the Irons find themselves in the top half of the Premier League table and pushing for the European places. Whilst it’s evident that the 26-year-old’s creativity has been missed, his absence hasn’t damaged the club seriously as they find themselves virtually safe from relegation at this stage for the first time in three terms.
This, in part, has also been down to, as well as the new talent, players like Robert Snodgrass stepping up to become first-team regulars on merit for their consistent performances. Though if Lanzini was to start against the Cottagers, looking at West Ham’s last starting Xl, one would feel that the Scot would be the one to slip out for the South American to fill an accustomed central-attacking-midfield role.
In light of this, we’re going to carry out a statistical comparison between Lanzini and Snodgrass to find out whether one is deserving of being dropped to accommodate for the other. The attacking stats we’re going to use are found in the below whoscored.com image.
As you can see, for Lanzini the figures come from the entirety of last season in the Premier League having missed all of ‘18/19. In 2017/2018, “The Jewel” played a comparatively similar amount to what Snodgrass has so far this campaign, hence his figures coming from this season in the league.
But Lanzini does have more playing time under his belt in this sample for our comparison, with more matches and more minutes. In addition, his attacking prowess is displayed by his five goals to Snodgrass’ two.
In terms of assists, things are a little tighter, though the former River Plate star still wins by a margin of 6-3. It’s no surprise to see that, as well, he has averaged more shots per game, although fewer key passes per game in this period.
The more skillful of the duo, Lanzini, has more dribbles to his name on average, but not as many fouls drawn compared to the Scottish international, who has been rejuvenated, playing himself into the Hammer of the Year race, under Pellegrini.
They have both averaged a low 0.1 offsides from advanced midfield with the better at holding onto the ball being Snodgrass with fewer occasions dispossessed per match. Meanwhile, the eye-catching Lanzini takes the final two stats by averaging fewer bad controls and a higher WhoScored match rating in the periods we’re analysing.
Overall, the clear winner of this comparison is undoubtedly Lanzini as he collects nine stats wins to triumph over the veteran Snodgrass by six (9-6). Although does this mean that when fully fit, the former should replace the latter in the Hammers’ regular starting team?
The answer is yes, as our statistics-driven tactical analysis has proved today in conclusion. By returning, Lanzini will bring that spark and high quality in midfield that the Irons have been lacking in certain matches this term and that Snodgrass was doing his best to replicate in his absence.
On the whole, it’s incredibly harsh to drop Snodgrass in what has been an excellent season for him thus far, but it’s a dilemma that Pellegrini will be glad to have rather than a lack of options. However, West Ham must be careful in re-introducing Lanzini and weary of the fact that he might not return from this injury as the same player he was before it.
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