Felipe Anderson: The Rising Protagonist
Some say the days of the street footballer are over. Felipe Anderson’s story suggests otherwise. Raised in Santa Maria, Brazil, he learned then honed his outstanding technical skills during informal kickabouts in the streets. Freedom to express himself without the pressure to please a coach or manager allowed the boy to take the first steps down the road to becoming the multi-talented player he is today.
By the time he was 20, Anderson won the Copa Libertadores and two Sao Paulo State titles. After some success in Rome, he signed for West Ham where he is fast becoming a local hero.
The deal is turning into one of the summer transfer window's most exciting. The club-record signing from Lazio is a creative attacking midfielder who is skilful, extremely quick from a standing start. He surges past markers with explosive pace. Anderson is rightly regarded as one of European football’s finest dribblers.
Possessing all the attributes of a winger, he won't be pinned down to one position. Anderson’s best performances under Manuel Pellegrini are as a No 10 behind the striker. In that free role, the Brazilian receives passes on the half-turn in pockets of space or drifts wide to take on opposing full-backs.
Anderson’s life at West Ham wasn’t so rosy at the beginning. The low point was a 1-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in October. He could do nothing right. His passing and dribbling were equally askew. After three months, he seemed unlikely to be anything more than an expensive extra in an underwhelming cast. Pellegrini stuck with him, however, and was rewarded.
The turning point was a 4-2 victory against Burnley. West Ham’s performance ticked every box. They scored four goals and created numerous chances with incisive, attractive football. Anderson was central to the eye-catching display. He produced his most-effective 90 minutes in Claret and Blue after Pellegrini invited it in the press. The 25-year-old was irresistible, scoring two goals.
Those were the first in a run of seven goals over the player's last nine appearances. His match-winning brace against Southampton underlined how pivotal a figure he's become for one of the league’s in-form sides. No West Ham player scores as many goals, creates as many chances or completes as many dribbles.
Playmaker Manuel Lanzini's extended absence was a major blow for West Ham before Anderson found his stride. The Hammers now have a creative player who can deliver quality in the final third. Anderson has lifted the weight from striker Marko Arnautovic’s shoulders.
Credit for Anderson’s scintillating form should go to Pellegrini. He kept faith in his marquee signing despite early struggles. Anderson was given the time to adjust to English football, starting every match this season despite his and West Ham’s patchy opening few months.
The West Ham manager had every reason to believe Anderson would come good. Few coaches have been as successful at getting the best from mercurial playmakers as the experienced Pellegrini. The Chilean provided a platform for gifted individuals to thrive throughout his managerial career.
From Isco at Malaga to Santi Cazorla at Villarreal, talented playmakers reached new levels of productivity under Pellegrini’s management. In an age where team structure and collective organisation are the watchwords, Pellegrini continues to believe individual talent can determine match outcomes.
Felipe Anderson is repaying every penny West Ham paid to Lazio. Should Anderson maintain this level, West Ham’s upper-half finish will soon be in touching distance.