David Moyes has steadied the ship at West Ham, of that there is no doubt, but talk this week is of an ‘injury crisis’ to two key men.
As the club enters talks this week to try and sign the versatile Portuguese midfielder, João Mário, things look to be on the up. Indeed, the early season sentiment of Javier Hernandez being their best ever signing and Marko Arnautovic being a rip off at £25m looks to have sharply turned on its head in favour of the latter, with the jury back out on his Mexican teammate. In light of that and given Manuel Lanzini’s recent form, his and Arnautovic’s injury concerns will come as something of a let down for fans who haven’t seen such attacking prowess since Dimitri Payet graced their presence. Arguably, these two men are forming one of the finest partnerships in the club’s recent history.
But is Lanzini’s injury really a blessing in disguise?
The Argentine’s form has sparked interest from plenty of bigger clubs and with Coutinho now at Barcelona, Liverpool are in need of a playmaker.
Plenty has been made in debate of Coutinho’s importance to the side, given the immediacy of Liverpool’s win over City, but this was followed up by a loss away at struggling Swansea. This loss would surely have been a game for a player like Coutinho to prove his worth to Liverpool. With the side constantly on the front foot, looking at two banks of four (perhaps two banks of 5 at times), they struggled to unlock a team with limited space behind it. Coutinho has the precise skillset to provide penetration in such matches and this exemplifies a common accusation that he went missing in ‘big games’.
The Brazilian, lacking pace but possessing plenty of guile, will prove less useful against City; a team that must be pressed and squeezed out before being punished with pace on the counter-attack – a feat achieved by Liverpool and narrowly missed out on by Bristol City.
Adam Lallana, used as an example of Liverpool’s strength in depth in cover for Coutinho, is a gifted footballer but can’t unlock such tightly closed defences with flashes of unequalled vision and brilliance. Nor does anyone currently knocking on the door of Liverpool’s first team for that matter.
Manuel Lanzini, however, is such a player and West Ham will do well to hold on to him come summer.
His absence from the team might now give Javier Hernandez a window to prove his worth given that he pounced so efficiently on Arnautovic’s blocked shot to steer the Hammers level so soon after conceding the opening goal. Hernandez is a firm fan favourite at West Ham and few neutrals will begrudge the hardworking Mexican a second bite of David Moyes’ apple.
Lanzini, on the other hand, will now be rehabilitating in-house under the Scotsman’s beady eye until he is fit again in February, and the club is almost certain to retain his services for the remainder of the transfer window. Had he been fit and firing this January, it is not unthinkable that Liverpool would have tabled a sizeable offer for a player of similar style, if not calibre, to the man they have just sold for a British record transfer fee to the Catalan giants.
When Lanzini felt his hamstring pop in their less controversial match against Bournemouth this weekend just gone, he inadvertently wiped himself off Liverpool’s radar, or anyone else’s for that matter, and that at least is a good thing for West Ham. A short stint on the sidelines for their talisman notwithstanding….
You can find more work by Alex Guildford at Footingthinkball or follow his musings on Twitter: @lexguilford.
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