West Ham United find themselves in a tricky position. With just ten games of the current campaign left, the Hammers are only three points above the relegation zone. Demotion to the Championship isn’t the only punishment they face if results don’t pick up.
Manuel Lanzini, one of the club’s best players, could be on the move. A report in the Evening Standard claims West Ham want to offer the Argentine playmaker a long-term deal to ward off interest from Liverpool. It’s unlikely the 25-year-old will put pen to paper on a new contract if he’s going to be plying his trade in the second tier of English football, though.
The report goes on to say the Hammers want to significantly increase his £35,000-per-week contract, which expires in 2021, and will start negotiations as soon as they’re assured of Premier League football next season.
There’s now two incentives for West Ham to stay up; top-flight football for the 2018/19 season and ensuring the most consistent player at the club extends his stay at the London Stadium.
Once they’re mathematically safe, however, it’s a necessity, if they’re to improve as a club, that they make their No.10 one of their best-paid players. It’s not a knee-jerk reaction to the interest from other teams.
The versatile playmaker deserves parity with Marko Arnautović, Joe Hart and Javier Hernández – the trio are all believed to pick up salaries in the region of £120,000-per-week – thanks to his performances on the pitch.
After all, he’d be earning close to that even if he was little more than a squad player for one of the Premier League’s top six.
If reports are correct, the former River Plate youngster takes home just £35,000-per-week – less than Arthur Masuaku. Granted Lanzini signed his deal in 2016 before the new TV money was being filtered down, but the Hammers should have rewarded the attacker for his fine form since arriving in England.
Despite the club being in perpetual transition since his arrival, he’s been able to maintain his impressive performances. Slaven Bilić‘s side shocked many during the 2015/16 campaign by finishing seventh, four points shy of a Champions League place.
The 2016/17 season was completely different for Bilić and Lanzini. They went from fighting for a European spot to battling for Premier League survival. They lost Dimitri Payet and there was a shift in their style of play.
The former Besiktas boss couldn’t get things back on track this season and Moyes replaced him in November. There’s been no consistency for Lanzini to flourish, yet he’s continued to post unnervingly similar numbers over the past three seasons which you can see in the graphic below.
When looking at expected goals (xG90) and expected goals assisted per 90 minutes (xA90), his totals since 2015/16 have been 0.35, 0.34 and 0.35. His xG90 this season is down on previous years but he’s made up for that by increasing his xA90.
Though some might see this as the mark of a player who has stagnated, it actually paints a picture of someone who is consistent even when the team they’re playing in isn’t. The Hammers have often been without a striker due to injuries and they’ve changed systems. Yet Lanzini has maintained his form.
It goes unnoticed because he’s not winning matches single-handedly or dancing past the opposition for fun, but there’s a player there to build an attack around who can create chances on a regular basis.
The player card above shows Lanzini’s averages since he joined the Hammers. His goals and assists per 90 minutes is slightly better than his xG+xA90 but it shows he’s performing to a the level expected of him under the circumstances.
He’s been making 1.77 key passes, the best in West Ham’s squad, and is completing 2.5 dribbles, a number only six players can better in the Premier League this season.
He is one of the most underrated players in the English top flight and he’s achieved this playing for a West Ham team without a real identity for the best part of two seasons. The best piece of business they could do is to get Lanzini tied down to a long-term deal so they’re able to make him the main man moving forward. If the environment is right he’ll flourish.