Ever since Manuel Lanzini returned from his cruciate ligament rupture in the latter half of last season, West Ham United fans have been waiting for the Argentinian – nicknamed “the jewel” – to return to the previous levels which saw him earn a call up to the Argentina national squad prior to the 2018 World Cup.
But almost a year on, the Hammers faithful have been left wondering when that time will come.
During this period, Lanzini has managed to score just one goal – a header on the final day of last season in West Ham’s 4-1 win away to Watford. Other than that, in truth, he has rarely even looked like the same goal threat that he was pre-injury.
Yet while his goals were a welcome addition to his game, they were not the be-all and end-all of it. He now takes fewer risks and opts for a safe and simple pass rather than venturing on an opportunist dribble which in the past would often see him able to create for not only himself but for others too.
And while he was never the fastest footballer in the world, he noticeably seems to have lost that burst of acceleration that frequently saw himself able to weave his way out of tight situations, where he would then find space to perform his magic.
Due to his size and stature, tackling has never been a key component of his game, but this has been more evident over the past year than ever before. He continuously pulls out of challenges that are there to be won throughout a match and fails to compete physically against most other players in the league.
The fear of sustaining another long-term injury may be hovering at the back of his mind every time he steps out onto a football pitch, which is understandable, but at some point, Lanzini is going to have to step out of the bubble that he currently resides in if he aims to get back to the playing level of his former self.
Now at the age of 26, West Ham’s number 10 should be ready to hit his prime and fulfill the bundles of talent that everybody knows he possesses. If that wasn’t abundantly clear, then nobody would even be questioning him as a player. Fans are so frustrated with his current game because they know how good he can be.