Behind a shy exterior, we have a Brazilian attacker with dribbling skills, nutmeg capabilities, and a quiet, rueful pace – but what has happened to Felipe Anderson? Will he go down in West Ham’s history as a mistake or marquee signing?
With Moyes finally realising the creative capability of Pablo Fornals – over his favoured Manuel Lanzini, the arrival of January signings Soucek and Bowen, and a defensive style of play, we might see the disappearance of creative players from our midfield. Felipe Anderson may be among those to disappear from the starting XI, and possibly West Ham altogether.
Before his first game as reunited manager, David Moyes commanded Anderson to score a “Brazilian goal” against Bournemouth. And score he did, as we won 4-0. This would’ve put the Brazilian in the lead for attacking choices, but after a month-long injury sustained from the loss against Sheffield United, Anderson’s match time decreased from starter to bench warmer – he was given only a few minutes in the last two matches before Coronavirus stopped football.
West Ham fans will know this prevalent pattern of Moyes: To award his favourites with match-time, and seemingly punish those who have fallen from grace with the bench. A recent article from Claret & Hugh suggests that Moyes and the Board may be looking to offload the once sought-after attacker to recoup losses of Pellegrini’s once prime target.
With a £40m price tag and Moyes keen to find some Championship players like Jarod Bowen with the deep-rooted familiarity and old-fashioned grit of English football, the luxury player may be the first to go. With stats like one goal and five assists in 24 games, it would seem to make Anderson not only overpriced but ineffective. A closer look at Felipe Anderson will show three reasons why West Ham needs Felipe Anderson.
A Winger Above Wingers: At one point during Pellegrini’s reign, it seemed like we had nothing but wingers on the team sheet, with a total of nine; Bowen made it 10. Yet if you look at those players, Yarmolenko and Antonio are ageing and injury prone; youthful Diangana and Holland have both suffered long-term injuries in their loan spells; Snodgrass – one of the most creative players this season – will be turning 33 in possibly his last season in the claret and blue; Masuaku plays fullback or wingback, and Lanzini is a shadow of what he used to be since he suffered his injury. Fornals and Bowen will be the only wingers depending on Antonio’s position and fitness, leaving West Ham with no options on the bench greater than Felipe Anderson.
The Counterattack Completion: Gone are the attempts of Pelligrini’s sophisticated, possession-based football. Under Moyes, the Hammers are back to being a counter-attacking side. Yet with only Jarod Bowen, the injury-prone Antonio, and the youthful but average legs of Fornals, there is very little pace to counter on the break. Yes, Noble and the midfield can resort to long-ball deliveries to Haller, but that’s proven to be ineffective. Anderson is perfect for this counter attacking style with his dribbling wizardry and blitzing pace. Coupled with fellow pace-merchants Antonio and Bowen, and the ability to finish and link up with Haller, Anderson plays a great role in the 4-4-2 Moyes should be employing.
The Real Stats – An Alternative Story: One stat I saw online of Anderson’s average of 1.1 passes completed is misleading. It’s actually an average of 1.1 key passes per game, making Anderson third highest in the squad. With 855 passes in the 19/20 season, Anderson also has the third highest number at West Ham, with a 78.6% completion rate. He also has the third highest number of assists. Defensively, he has the highest number of tackles (44) of attacking players (Fifth at West Ham including defenders), which is more than Aston Villa’s wonder-son Jack Grealish. With 22 interceptions Anderson is higher than both Grealish, and Leicester’s James Maddison. He’s seventh highest in the League for successful dribbles.
The Hammers should see a continued bounce in team confidence and a gel in playing style, brought on by the surge of new energy from Soucek and Bowen. This will increase Anderson’s ability to perform. West Ham must not resort to overconfidence in a transfer market which will be in shambles due to recent world events, or to be overconfident in the team believing Anderson is not good enough.
This Brazilian still has the pace, trickery, and attacking prowess which can only be unleashed in a counter attacking side.