West Ham United shone in their 4-1 win against Huddersfield Town at the John Smith’s Stadium on January 13 – a result that moved them up to 11th in the Premier League table – and much of the reason for the impressive scoreline was down to the fine performances from Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzini.
The former scored once and set up the latter to score twice in a convincing win that lifted David Moyes’ men away from the relegation places.
It was also a display that carried on Arnautovic’s brilliant run of form, and he had six goals and a further three assists in his last seven top flight appearances prior to the home match against Bournemouth at the London Stadium last weekend.
The club-record buy was actually playing in a centre-forward role with Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho absent, and he was thriving and making far more of an impact than he was on the wing earlier in the campaign.
Meanwhile, Lanzini’s brace against the Terriers meant that he had three goals and five assists ahead of the clash against the Cherries – mainly from an advanced role through the middle – and Moyes would have been delighted with the quality he was showing as well as his successful link-up with Arnautovic.
However, things started to go wrong in the 1-1 draw against Bournemouth on Saturday when the Argentina international was replaced by Javier Hernandez in the 64th minute after suffering a hamstring injury.
Arnautovic completed the 90 minutes for the Irons but it was then revealed afterwards that he had also suffered a hamstring problem, with the reliable @ExWHUemployee since confirming that the Austria international will now be out for 3-4 weeks, while Lanzini will be on the sidelines for 4-5 weeks.
That news would have come as a huge blow to Moyes with his side still just four points above the relegation zone, and with crucial Premier League fixtures against Crystal Palace, Brighton and Hove Albion and Watford to come over the course of the next fortnight.
The Scot could be tempted to look for a replacement for the creative duo before the January transfer window slams shut, with new boy Joao Mario probably likely to play in a deeper midfield role.
However, instead of dipping into the market Moyes should look to give an opportunity to a player that he already has available to him – Domingos Quina, who is rated at £10m according to Football.London.
The highly-rated Portugal U20 international has made four first-team appearances – as well as four more in the EFL Trophy – for the Irons so far this season, and while he is still far from the finished product, he has shown glimpses in the EFL Cup that he has the potential to make a difference for the club in what will be a crucial couple of weeks.
The 18-year-old, who is being tracked by Manchester United according to reports by ESPN FC in November, started against Arsenal in the cup in December, has good agility and often looked for a forward pass – certainly no mean feat for a teenager playing on the big stage.
The youngster is also capable of breaking forward with pace and there is no doubt that he could be a real threat for opposition defenders in the next few fixtures because of his unpredictability, as long as he can start to produce those key passes in the final third.
Moyes may think twice about blooding Quina for what would be his Premier League debut in the next few weeks, but if you can’t give him an opportunity against the likes of Brighton and Watford – with a solid defensive base behind him – then when can you?
The Portuguese youngster has the ability to create and bring something to the side in the final third, and the fact that he would be an unknown quantity for the opposition could play right into his – and his team’s – hands.