Whilst we are in the midst of a very frustrating transfer window, it is important to remember that sometimes it pays to show a little patience. We signed Lucas Paqueta at the back end of the 2022 summer window, and it took him a little time to settle into his new surroundings.
But one moment has already written him into Hammers folklore. The Brazilian showed unbelievable composure on the ball to pick out an inch-perfect pass through to Jarrod Bowen with time ticking away in Prague. The rest is history, Bowen took it into his stride and slotted the ball past the onrushing keeper to send the claret and blue army around the world into hysteria.
In the circumstances, I don’t think there is another player on the pitch in that moment that would be able to show that level of calmness and skill to put it on a sixpence for Bowen. It was sheer brilliance. It was those types of moments that we were hoping for when the club shelled out a record fee for the former Lyon man.
There were times in the season when fans doubted his ability. I even heard people around me in the stands calling for the Brazil international to be hooked as he and I quote: ‘Offers nothing, and Pablo Fornals is ten times the player’. Paqueta did take his time to settle, which is perfectly understandable. He was thrusted into a new country, a different style of play, and he had to deal with that all with a language barrier.
But as time went on, his class slowly started to shine. It culminated with two moments of magic, of course, the aforementioned through ball in the final, but also, arguably better, his role in Manual Lanzini’s final goal for the club. His twinkle toes weaved their way through four Leeds defenders before putting it in a plate for the Argentine to have his last memorable moment in the east end sun.
Perhaps what impresses me the most about him, though, is that he isn’t your traditional Brazilian number 10. He is fierce, tenacious and hard in the tackle. You don’t normally see that in advanced playmakers.
You wouldn’t see Neymar doing the dirty stuff Paqueta does. He has a terrific work ethic, and that mentality will be all-important following Rice’s departure from the club. He will, of course, be one of the more advanced midfielders but having his tracking back and tiger-like mentality will certainly help fill the gigantic void that will be left by the former Hammers skipper.
It remains to be seen who he will be lining up next to in the 2023/24 season. We have already seen that the Scotsman has toyed with the idea of a 3-5-2 formation. Paqueta’s role in that would be crucial as the main playmaker, he would be expected to play balls through to the onrushing forwards.
We did see in glimpses last year of a potential blossoming relationship with Gianluca Scamacca. The Italian, who also struggled to settle, looked at his best when working with Paqueta. Unfortunately, injuries to both at differing times meant that they weren’t on the pitch at the same time very often. But when they were, Paqueta teed up Scamacca a handful of times for goals. So that relationship will play an important role for the Hammers this season.
He isn’t perfect, and he does need to work on his consistency, at times last season he perhaps overplayed the ball in the wrong areas. He would attempt flicks and tricks in and around the Hammers penalty areas or 18-yard line and give the ball away. He needs to eradicate that from his game.
If he does that and adds a few more goals to his game he will turn out to be one of the great West Ham signings in recent seasons. He, alongside Jarrod Bowen and Nayef Aguerd, are players that the club must start to build around.
With Rice now gone, it is important we value these players and show ambition with our newly inherited fortune. We have players entering their peak and this is a genuine opportunity to kick on and move into a new era.
We have a new Technical Director and the Hammers must get this transfer period right before the window slams shut. Give Paqueta a genuine box-to-box midfielder and an exceptional holding midfielder and that’ll free up our Brazilian magnifico to bring his samba flair to the party and show us just how good he is.