If you’d have said to me back in March that come August we’d be heading in to a new season as a Premier League club, with Manuel Pellegrini in charge and having spent almost £100m on seven new players, I’d have laughed you out of Stratford.
Yet here we are. Once again a summer of positive activity has sparked a new wave of optimism around the club, but this time it’s different. The recruitment has been outstanding and there’s one particular new face who is giving everyone a reason to believe that we’ve finally turned a corner.
Felipe Anderson finally arrived in a club-record £40million deal from Lazio after what seem like years of speculation. The saga went on for so long that you’d have been forgiven for thinking it would end in disappointment. Instead, the complete opposite happened as West Ham, for once, went about their business with outstanding professionalism and relentlessness. Pellegrini really, really wanted his man and he surely did everything he could behind the scenes to ensure he got him.
But amongst all of the excitement and fanfare, there always remains an element of risk and doubt when it comes to spending so much money on a player who is yet to ply his trade in the Premier League. The fee gives added pressure to the player to perform straight away and the expectation of the fans only adds to that pressure.
The big question now is whether Anderson, who is unquestionably the marquee addition among the players to have been signed this summer, can be the man to take the club forward. It’s no surprise Pellegrini was so eager to bring the Brazilian to East London, either. Anderson has previously been linked with moves to the Premier League’s top six and last season, despite having to overcome a number of injury problems, the 25-year-old still chipped in with five goals and seven assists in 25 appearances for Lazio, 13 of which were as a substitute.
There’s no question, then, that he has the ability to deliver when it matters, even when he’s not playing regularly. Although he’ll almost certainly be playing regularly for us this season.
Anderson has exception skill, flair, pace and technique, which is undoubtedly what we’ve missed so dearly since Dimitri Payet decided we were no longer good enough for him. Manuel Lanzini has helped to fill that hole admirably but his long-term injury meant we were once again in need of someone capable of changing a game with sensational magic. Anderson is the perfect candidate for that role, now.
Out on the left, he’ll be given the creative licence by Pellegrini to do whatever he wants going forward and he’ll thrive when given the opportunity to cut inside and unleash his powerful right boot. We’ve already seen signs for what Anderson can do in pre-season, albeit in small doses as he is slowly introduced to life in a new country with a new language he barely speaks.
It won’t take long for him to properly settle, though, and when he does we should then begin to see why the club were willing to almost double the club’s transfer record to secure his signature. It’s exciting to know that we have a player of Anderson’s ilk on the club’s books, particularly when you consider the players he’ll be playing alongside this season. Andriy Yarmolenko and Marko Arnautovic will be his partners in crime going forward and they’ve both shown this summer that they’re going to be very important to West Ham’s success in 18/19.
Anderson’s eagerness to succeed here is also a real breath of fresh air. In his first press conference, the former Santos star admitted that he was well aware of how different the English game is compared to Italy.
“I understand that his league is a lot different to Italy, people use a lot of strength here, a lot of force,” he said. “The way I’m going to approach it is to work hard and play above it. I’m fast and I’m going to use my intelligence. I’m also going to listen to what my manager says.”
If he does that then he’ll be on the right track, because his manager is one that has been there, seen it and done it, especially in England with Manchester City. It’s difficult not to get over excited about seeing what Anderson can do in claret and blue this season and if he can deliver what he’s capable of, then
West Ham will be back on the right road to that next level. No pressure, Felipe.