Hammers hero identifies ‘little magician’ to build resurgent West Ham team around

Manuel Lanzini

Slaven Bilic has been told he should build his Hammers team for next season around the mercurial talent that is Manuel Lanzini. The West Ham manager, who is set for showdown talks to iron out his future as manager of the London Stadium outfit, must harness the abilities of the Argentine ace and make him the focus for the new campaign.

That’s according to former West Ham striker Tony Cottee, who believes Lanzini showed the depth of his talent in the 1-0 win over Tottenham that helped to deny them a title at the top flight title.

Lanzini scored the only goal of the game and his dazzling display gave Cottee, who hit 146 goals in two spells at the Boleyn between 1983 and 1996, enough encouragement to pick him out as a star performer.

And former England forward Cottee says there is every reason to take the confidence from the victory over Mauricio Pochettino’s side into the next game at home to Liverpool on Sunday. West Ham still have a chance of finishing in tenth in the standings. They follow up the clash with Jurgen Klopp’s Reds with a trip to Burnley for the last game of the season.

And Cottee, still a hero among West ham fans, said: “Manuel Lanzini proved to be the matchwinner and if you want to be popular, scoring against Tottenham a lot is a good way to go about it and he’s a terrific player.

“Going forward we should look to build the team around him because he is a little magician and following Dimitri Payet’s departure, we were looking for someone to step up and take the mantle and I feel he has.

“Hopefully even more is to come from him next season and even though it hasn’t been an easy season for anybody and a lot of players have underperformed, that doesn’t apply to Lanzini. He now has a good chance of finishing the season as our top goalscorer with two games left, so hopefully he can end this year strongly.”

Meanwhile, young Hammers – in the shape of West Ham’s U23s will come up against Newcastle in the PL2 Division 2 play-off final at St James’ Park on May 16 (KO, 7pm). Manager Terry Westley’s starlets need a win that would see them go up and play in PL2 Division 1 next term. The tie will be played settled on the night, with extra-time and penalties to be used if the scores remain level.