It was confirmed last week that West Ham United midfielder Manuel Lanzini had suffered a serious anterior cruciate ligament while on international duty with Argentina that will keep him out of the 2018 World Cup, and perhaps for the whole of the 2018/19 campaign.
Given he is one of the Irons’ most important players – especially from an attacking point of view seeing as he seemed to have a telepathic understanding with Marko Arnautovic at times last season – the news will have come to a huge blow to the London Stadium faithful and new manager Manuel Pellegrini.
The Chilean boss surely would have identified the talented 25-year-old as one of the players he was looking forward to working with and wanted to build his team around having taken charge of the east London outfit, but he may not get the opportunity to work with him on the training ground until the start of 2019 – at the very earliest.
West Ham have been heavily linked with moves for former loanee Joao Mario from Inter Milan and Javier Pastore from Paris Saint-Germain this summer, who were presumably seen as partnering Lanzini behind a striker if Pellegrini is going to stick with one up top.
If that was to be the case, then the injury the diminutive Argentine may have actually solved one of his biggest headaches – how to incorporate Javier Hernandez into his starting line-up.
Hopes were high that the east London outfit, whose 5ft 9in transfer target would have a bigger impact for them than Dimitri Payet and Carlos Tevez, had finally found the goalscorer they had been looking for when they brought the Mexico international to the London Stadium from Bayer Leverkusen last summer, but it hasn’t worked out so far.
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While the 30-year-old was something of a regular in the starting XI under Slaven Bilic, he struggled to make the side when David Moyes succeeded the Croatian, often finding himself on the substitutes’ bench with Arnautovic preferred in the centre-forward role despite it not being his natural position.
The Austian attacker quickly impressed in terms of his strength, pace and the goal threat that he brought for his club, and it was completely fair enough that Hernandez was left out when Moyes preferred a formation with one striker.
His lack of regular minutes meant that he looked likely to leave the east London club this summer if the Scot had remained in charge, but that situation may have changed now Pellegrini has taken the helm.
The former Manchester City manager will likely want to keep the experienced and proven 30-year-old at the London Stadium – although he may need to persuade the player – but with Arnautovic, Lanzini and potential new wide addition Felipe Anderson, it would have been hard to guarantee him the starts that he will want to be guaranteed.
The loss of Lanzini may have solved Pellegrini’s big headache, as he could now choose to go with a 4-2-2-2 system with the Mexican up top alongside Arnautovic, or he could move the Austrian back to a slightly deeper role with Hernandez the focal point of the attack if he sticks with a lone striker formation.
Lanzini will be a huge miss for West Ham next season, but his absence could open the door for Hernandez to finally make his mark at the London Stadium, and it will make the Chilean boss’ life slightly easier in terms of keeping all of his players satisfied.