Have West Ham Finally Found The Perfect Payet Replacement?
January 23, 2019
It’s almost two years to the day that West Ham sold Dimitri Payet back to Marseille. The Frenchman enjoyed a hugely impressive 18 months with the Hammers before returning to the south of France and his loss has significantly impacted the east London side.
Indeed, only Manuel Lanzini (97) has created more goalscoring chances than Payet (74) of all West Ham players since the start of the 2016/17 Premier League season, as per WhoScored.com.
Having made just 18 top-flight appearances in that time, it serves to highlight just how much West Ham have needed a creative outlet in the time since his exit. Lanzini’s ACL tear sustained in the buildup to the World Cup didn’t help matters, but it wasn’t until the summer that an inventive successor was finally secured.
Yes, it took a club-record bid to land him, but Felipe Anderson has undoubtedly taken over the mantle as creator-in-chief at the London Stadium. Despite costing in excess of £45m, few could have foreseen the Brazilian having such a sustained impact in the capital upon his arrival. At times plagued with inconsistency during his days at Lazio, Manuel Pellegrini has worked wonders to iron (no pun intended) out these deficiencies.
He has his moments where he looks a fish out of water, but largely; Anderson has been a success story in the capital, which is all the more impressive given how long players can take to transition from league to another. Rather, the 25-year-old has shown no signs he is out of his depth in the Premier League and is putting in the type of performances Lazio fans became accustomed to in the 2014/15 Serie A season, during which he was linked with moves to Manchester United and Chelsea.
West Ham are the happy beneficiaries of his excellent form, with the Hammers, despite a 2-0 defeat at Bournemouth, currently sitting 10th in the Premier League, yet just three points off Watford in seventh. Much of the reason for their position in the table is down to Anderson, who has scored more goals (8) than any other West Ham player. What’s crucial, still, is that these goals have come at key times to help the team to a result, rather than coming as mere consolations in a heavy loss or as the icing on the cake in a routine win.
His eight goals have actually earned West Ham an additional nine points in the Premier League this season, and that leaves the team in the hunt for European football rather than looming above the relegation zone. Anderson’s quickly become a clutch player for Pellegrini’s side, though that shouldn’t come as a surprise given his experience of playing in the Europa League and operating in a Lazio team that routinely pushed for a European finish.
It’s not just his goalscoring ability that has won the adulation of the Hammers faithful either, but his ability to pick out a teammate to go for goal. Of course, he may just have two assists to his name, yet that’s not for want of trying, nor is it a stick with which to beat Anderson with. He is top for key passes (42) of all West Ham players this season, as per WhoScored.com, and had his teammates donned their shooting boots more regularly, then his assists return would look all the healthier.
Not only that, but Anderson (53) is interestingly top for tackles of all West Ham players in England’s top tier this term and merely highlights, not only a need to create for others, but a willingness to get stuck in. With the winger not one to shirk his defensive responsibilities, he’s quickly soared to the top of the fans’ favourites list at the London Stadium as he more than lives up to his hefty price tag.
So is he at long last the direct replacement for Payet West Ham have craved since his exit? Well, yes and no. Both are different players in that Payet is a number 10 who can play out wide while Anderson is a winger who can play through the middle if needs must. Rather, the Frenchman utilised his creative attributes to pry opponents apart, while his Brazilian counterpart maximises his speed to peg defenders back and bring others into play, or go for goal himself.
Payet is the subtle number 10, where Anderson’s directness on either flank is one of his greatest strengths. That being said, both rapidly established themselves as clutch players for the Hammers upon their respective arrivals, albeit via differing mediums of attack. Of course, West Ham fans may have wished to see both players operate on the same plane, and in another lifetime, that will have been the case, yet they can take solace that Payet can now be considered a fond memory rather than a player supporters still crave and rue the day he left.
And that’s largely due to Anderson’s immediate impact in the capital. Lanzini’s injury undoubtedly had fans pulling their hair out, yet the former Lazio forward’s excellent start to life in England means the Argentine won’t need to be rushed back to fitness as West Ham can rest easy knowing the Brazilian’s blistering start to life in London looks set to continue into 2019 and beyond.