A Michail Antonio brace fired West Ham United back into top-four contention and one step closer to qualifying for a place in Europe next season.
The Irons defeated Burnley 2-1 at Turf Moor to move to within three points of Premier League rivals Chelsea, largely thanks to the goalscoring exploits of the returning 31-year-old forward.
But for Antonio, he will be bitterly disappointed that he didn’t walk away with the match ball after fluffing numerous chances whilst on a hat-trick, though he was awards Sky Sports’ ‘Man of the Match’ award.
And he, of course, deserves plenty of plaudits but there were others who made an underrated impact on the night and they merit just as much praise.
David Moyes had to tinker his starting XI as there was a surprise absence to Mark Noble. The 58-year-old opted for Manuel Lanzini in a deeper role, alongside Tomas Soucek, and what a decision that proved to be.
The Argentine, who has been linked with an exit from the London Stadium in recent weeks, delivered a midfield masterclass and was arguably Moyes’ unsung hero; he has every right to push Antonio for such high acclaim.
It’s clear that most of the visitors’ play ran through him and he rewarded that faith with a very accomplished showing, both in attack and defensively, too.
Lanzini provided one key pass from his 74 passing attempts, in which he completed 95% of his attempts. Again, the best of any player on the Turf Moor pitch on Monday night.
He very rarely lost possession, proving to be a hard man to get the ball off as he only lost the ball six times, which was the lowest of any Irons starter.
Furthermore, and perhaps surprisingly considering he’s an attack-minded option, the 28-year-old did his bit at the back by registering two clearances, winning two duels and making one tackle, via SofaScore.
This sort of industrious box-to-box display certainly proved to be a big reason why West Ham could dominate large spells of this game and subsequently why they were able to provide Antonio with plenty of golden opportunities.
Lanzini, who earns a reported £70k-per-week in East London, was even graded better than Soucek, Jesse Lingard and assist-maker Vladimir Coufal by football.london, and all three are arguably in the running for ‘Player of the Year’ so that speaks volumes towards just how good he was.
In what was his 156th appearance in the claret and blue, Lanzini was the Irons’ unsung hero and he quite rightly deserves such high acclaim.
AND in other news, West Ham handed significant blow over top striker target…