Devastating to himself, to his country, and to his team – Lanzini’s knee injury is nothing short of a football travesty. Reports are now stating the injury could last up to 15 months which would keep the Argentine out of West Ham’s team for the entire 2018/19 season. For Lanzini this has to be terrible. Other than missing a year in his prime, Lanzini was set to fit into new West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini’s attacking style of football with the hopes of him fully developing into the world beating talent many West Ham fans believe he is. And while Lanzini will have to wait for this opportunity, West Ham simply cannot. So, the question now becomes who can replace Lanzini – the answer? It may be a homegrown talent.
What does homegrown mean? Some would suggest that Jack Wilshere would fit the bill for a homegrown West Ham talent. He was brought up a West Ham supporter, and despite years at Arsenal he has always remained a fan of the East London club. The skills are there for the 26 year old English player, as he began his career extremely young. The biggest hurdle for him is injury. He returned to seasonal play last season and ended up playing in 40 games, which for him is a tremendous step in the right direction when it comes to separating himself from the tag as injury prone.
He also fits a certain aspect of the club the the board of owners have set in place – he is young, and English. Pellegrini seems to care less about the latter, so Wilshere seems unlikely at this point for a possible replacement for West Ham. I believe he has the talent and skills, but the unknown for a player who has had so much missed time for injuries could scare West Ham away from a move.
Homegrown… would this include Joao Mario? Technically no as the FA has a distinct rule about about qualifies as “homegrown” talent, but Mario did begin his Premier League life at West Ham. Mario completed a loan spell from January to the end of the season at West Ham last season. The attacking midfielder is currently playing in the World Cup and featuring as a starter for Portugal. The beginning of his West Ham career was a bit shaky; adjusting to the Premier League is often a tough task when coming from Serie A or other European leagues, however he finished strong and has cut his Premier League teeth at West Ham. He scored twice for the Hammers, both critical goals in their quest to stay alive in the Premier League, and added an assist as well.
Mario is young, but lacks a lot of pace. As a potential 10 on the pitch in a potential 4-2-3-1 formation this is not the end of the world, as he would be more responsible for holding up play and distributing the ball, rather than burning down the side of the pitch like a winger. Mario was rumoured to be looking for a permanent move to West Ham after his loan from Inter Milan ended, and both clubs are keen on the move. With the price tag still high a loan-to-buy option could be what we see. It is likely that he will be a Hammer again come August.
If Mario is in, who else could step up into that role to challenge for the starting squad? Andre Ayew was an option last season but has been sold off. Noble, Kouyate, and Obiang, the three midfielders on West Ham offer more defensively than they do attacking so they wouldn’t be the best fits. It may be time to promote a player who earned more than just a look after last season in the reserve league Premier League 2.
Welcome Marcus Browne to the stage, everyone. The 20 year old attacking midfielder who currently resides in West Hams reserve squad had a smashing end to his season after returning from a knee injury himself. Originally sent out on loan to Wigan in 2017, Browne suffered an injury that saw that move end and he returned to West Ham to treat the injury. In his return to play in January of 2018 Browne played in 10 Premier League 2 games, captaining the impressive young squad in 7 of those games.
With 6 goals and 2 assists in that time frame Browne was attracting some due attention to his game. On the pitch he is a clear leader who leads from the front. Always pushing to take the ball and carry it forward, he is a forwards best friend in link up play, and likes to have a go at goal on his own quite often. He capped off his awesome return to play with a 4 goal performance against Everton’s PL2 team, emphatically stamping a world class free kick goal on his performance to cap it off. Hmm, almost Lanzini-esque.
Pellegrini has stated that he wants to look at the infamous Academy of Football that West Ham has at its disposal and try to promote the natural talent that it possesses to the first team squad. For Browne this should be taken as an invitation. He will undoubtedly get some playing time in the pre-season squad which will be his opportunity to impress the new manager. Browne has the speed but mixes in a more physicality in his style of play, bashing through tackles to keep the ball alive and moving forward. Hopefully he can help West Ham save some money on an attacking midfielder and push his way onto the first team squad.