West Ham United propelled themselves up into the top four of the Premier League on Monday with an impressive 3-2 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers, and once again it was Jesse Lingard leading the charge.
The Hammers haven't finished in the top four of the top division since 1986, but David Moyes' side are in a strong position to do just that as we approach the business end of the 2020-21 campaign.
Lingard was once again the standout performer for the Hammers at Molineux, where he scored the opener and was the chief architect of his side's other two goals.
Having rediscovered his best form and muscled his way back into the England frame, it's difficult to argue Lingard has been anything less than exceptional since departing Manchester United on loan at the tail end of January,
The 28-year-old attacking midfielder has produced six goals and three assists in eight Premier League games since making his debut for the Hammers on Feb. 3. Not a single Premier League player has been involved in more goals in that time. How's that for an instant impact?
It took just six minutes for Lingard to get the ball rolling against Wolves, grabbing an early lead with an inspired solo effort. After picking the ball up in his own half, Lingard turned and charged upfield on the counter-attack before clipping a composed finish past the advancing Rui Patricio. That was the third "fast break" goal Lingard has scored so far this campaign, which is also more than any other player in the Premier League.
Lingard then had a big hand in the second goal when he chased an apparent lost cause to the byline, only to make Nelson Semedo look a fool with an outrageous spin-and-flick combo that allowed Arthur Masuaku to tee up Pablo Fornals to score. And still he wasn't done, as another driving run from deep ended with him assisting Jarrod Bowen despite being hounded by four Wolves defenders. Lingard is looking like an absolute world-beater since making the move to London.
Jesse Lingard since joining West Ham 🤙 pic.twitter.com/g3eyBeV3O8— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) April 5, 2021
😂😂😂 my bro— Jesse Lingard (@JesseLingard) April 5, 2021
Lukaku knows very well how a fresh start can be mutually beneficial for a player whose career is stalling at Old Trafford, although he made his exit a permanent one. The Belgium forward surpassed Brazil great Ronaldo's goal tally for Inter Milan by scoring in Saturday's 1-0 win at Bologna which took the Nerazzurri a step closer to winning the Serie A title (stream the replay on ESPN+ in the U.S.). It was his 60th goal in 86 appearances for the club, one more strike than the legendary O Fenomeno managed for the club and in 13 fewer appearances.
Lingard's loan switch to West Ham is further proof that in football, just as in life, sometimes a change really is just as good as a rest. Struggling to gain a foothold as part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's plans and making just three appearances during the first half of the season, Lingard was in danger of being stuck on the outer fringes at Old Trafford.
Mood this morning... 🕺🕺🕺 pic.twitter.com/X2mpSSXDJv— West Ham United (@WestHam) February 22, 2021
Recognising that a change had to be made and there was a big point to be proven, Lingard refocused his efforts and decided to get his stagnating career back on track at a team on the up, under a manager in Moyes who he already knew. The fact that a place in the England Euro 2020 squad was potentially up for grabs just added that extra dash of personal motivation.
"I'm still really training hard, so as long as I can keep that focus and consistency through to the end of the season hopefully I can go to the Euros," Lingard said after earning his England recall for the recent internationals against San Marino, Albania and Poland. "I'm just about character, you know relax, have fun and play with a smile on my face but when it comes down to football, you know I'm 100% there -- 100% working hard for my team in training and on match days."
Whether Lingard makes it into Gareth Southgate's final 23-man tournament squad remains to be seen -- there is some serious competition for those midfield spots, after all. However, with his sights reset and his morale reinvigorated, there's a simple joy in seeing a player who was just beginning to stray off course getting his act back together.