West Ham United have ascended ten points clear of the relegation zone, despite having a multitude of key players on the injury list.
One of those struck by a long-term injury was the diminutive playmaker Manuel Lanzini. The Argentinian international was deprived of the opportunity to represent his country at the 2018 World Cup in Russia after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in training.
To make matter worse, Lanzini also announced that he will be out of action until February 2019, meaning he would miss the majority of the 2018/19 season. Although Felipe Anderson has provided flair and creativity in the final third, West Ham have missed his creativity and technical quality in the final third.
Only Leicester City have scored fewer goals than The Hammers and bouts of inconsistency have cost them heavily under Manuel Pellegrini. Injuries have been a telling factor in their fluctuating form but the return of the likes of Lanzini, Fabian Balbuena, Carlos Sanchez and Andriy Yarmolenko may give them the added quality to finish inside the Top 10.
Co-owner David Gold announced via Twitter that the aforementioned players have been involved in first team training this week:
I went to the training ground today. Good atmosphere. Great to see Fabian Balbuena, Manuel Lanzini, Carlos Sanchez and Andriy Yarmolenko all coming back from long term injuries. dg
— David Gold (@davidgold) February 6, 2019
It’s majorly positive for the club that such an influx of players are returning to first team action in the climactic stages of the season. The Hammers face five teams placed below them in the league table in their next six league fixtures, which means they have a prime opportunity to accumulate points.
Why Manuel Lanzini has been so important to West Ham?
Manuel Lanzini originally joined West Ham United on a season-long loan from United Arab Emirates based outfit Al Jazira Club. He had spent four years at Argentinian giants River Plate before making the move to the UAE.
He quickly broke into the first team at River Plate but his lack of end product during his debut season led to him being dropped by newly-appointed manager Matias Almeyda. Therefore, Lanzini relocated to Brazil, gaining two years of valuable experience at Fluminense.
Lanzini later returned to River Plate ahead of the 2012/13 season and was immediately reinstalled into the first team by Ramon Diaz, who’d replaced Almeyda at the end of the 2011/12 season.
The young midfielder had a season to remember in Buenos Aires, scoring eight goals in 26 appearances. He consolidated his resurgence during the following campaign, but the main aspect which captivated his supporters was his innate ability to create goalscoring opportunities for his grateful teammates.
Despite being monitored by a multitude of European clubs, Lanzini surprisingly chose to leave River Plate for the far less prestigious environment of the UAE Arabian Gulf League.
Pessimists may suggest his decision was financially instigated but he was tempted by a move to the Premier League when West Ham signified their interest during the 2015 summer transfer window.
Slaven Bilic acquired the Argentinian midfielder on a season-long loan with an option to make the transfer permanent at the end of the season. Lanzini immediately showcased exactly why Bilic had brought him to the Boleyn Ground, after scoring just three minutes into his debut in the UEFA Europa League.
Although West Ham would subsequently capitulate to succumb to a surprising defeat to the relatively unknown Romanian outfit FC Astra Giurgiu. Lanzini had shown glimpses of his quality from the first whistle and would continue to dazzle in the iconic claret and blue jersey throughout the 2015/16 season.
West Ham enjoyed a scintillating campaign during their final year at the Boleyn Ground. The Hammers recorded a number of memorable victories, including three consecutive away victories against Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City respectively.
Winston Reid would ultimately guarantee UEFA Europa League qualification ahead of Liverpool with the winning goal against Manchester United in their farewell match at the Boleyn Ground.
In March 2016, West Ham confirmed that Manuel Lanzini would be joining on a permanent basis once the transfer window opened on 1 July 2016. Lanzini has scored 19 goals and provided 10 assists in his three seasons in the Premier League.
He’s reserved a place in the hearts of West Ham supporters and his return will be gratefully welcomed at the London Stadium.
When will Lanzini be Returning to First Team Action?
As previously mentioned, co-owner David Gold has confirmed that Manuel Lanzini has returned to participate in first team training this week but Physio Room have predicted that the 25-year-old won’t return to the pitch until 2 March.
It’s miraculous that Lanzini is even preparing for first team action whatsoever, considering that it was feared he may miss the entire 2018/19 season. He quickly underwent surgery in Barcelona with Dr Ramon Cugat and he was given a time frame of between eight and twelve months.
Lanzini was optimistically targeting a premature return in January, but the medical staff have gradually eased him to fitness in recent months with light training.
He’s published a number of posts showing him performing light training in the gym on social media, but the most positive post of late was undoubtedly Lanzini pictured with a smile planted across his face with fellow teammates Adrian, Javier Hernandez and Lucas Perez.
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