The Chalkboard: What Lanzini’s return means for West Ham

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As quoted by Football London, West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini has confirmed that Manuel Lanzini is close to a return to action, following a lengthy spell on the sidelines. The Chilean coach said, “this week I think we will have the squad list [on Thursday] and maybe Lanzini and Nasri can be included on the squad list…We will talk [Thursday] with the medical staff and then we will decide.”

Whether or not it is in time to face Fulham at the London Stadium on Friday night, the 26-year-old attacking midfielder is clearly close to a return to field. This will be welcome news to Hammers fans, as the Argentine can certainly have an impact between now and the end of the season.

On the chalkboard

The midfielder was expected to miss out on the entirety of this campaign after he sustained a knee injury during preparations for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. However, he now looks to be on schedule for a return ahead of the initial 15-month diagnosis.

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The team he is coming back into though is very different to the one he left. The Hammers have improved their attacking contingent whilst Lanzini has been sidelined, and summer arrival Felipe Anderson could make it tricky for the 4-cap Argentina international to get back into the team.

Pellegrini will have to find a way to balance his side so that Lanzini and the Brazilian can play alongside each other without leaving the Irons defensively exposed.

Finding the balance

With both Anderson and Lanzini on the pitch, the east London club would boast a great deal of creativity, technical ability and flair. However, neither are the most defensively aware or diligent of players. Despite all their quality, the Irons could find themselves missing the work rate currently brought to the side by the likes of Mark Noble, Robert Snodgrass and Michail Antonio – and there isn’t room for all of them in the starting XI.

Jack Wilshere and Andriy Yarmolenko’s own returns to fitness could intensify this selection headache for the manager. Pellegrini will likely have to make some tough choices in the summer, or else find a way to accommodate all of this attacking midfield talent, to ensure that the Iron’s don’t become a top-heavy, unbalanced outfit.