When West Ham hired Manuel Pellegrini as their manager in the summer of 2018, there was a huge wave of optimism among the club’s fans.
The Chilean was an attentive Premier League-winning manager with Manchester City and former head of Real Madrid. What can go wrong?
When it turned out, a lot.
Performances were largely promising during his first season in charge, and there was an obvious transition to a more patient, ground-based style of play. It was OK.
But his follow-up campaign, which ended shortly after Christmas 2019, was not so good. Soft, fragile screens that were filled with errors became the norm, and Hammarna seemed to lack ideas when it came to getting back into play.
Outside the field, there was also a first promise. Money ran out of West Ham’s pockets and almost £ 80 million went to Andriy Yarmolenko, Issa Diop and Felipe Anderson.
The Ukrainian was a key player in Dortmund and internationally, Diop a promising young talent from France as full of confidence, and the latter an exciting winger who had gained a fairly practical reputation in Serie A.
Anderson cost West Ham £ 35 million and signed a four-year deal. To begin with, he looked overloaded by the Premier League. It was not what he was used to, and he was certainly not the first – or last – player to need time to get up to speed.
In fact, Anderson recalled 90 minutes in May 2020 how difficult that adjustment had been.
“They told me it was intense, but I did not expect all this!”
⚒️ @F_Andersoon talked to @ 90minbrasil about the difference between the Premier League and Serie A …
(h / t @betway?) pic.twitter.com/WyPs2BR0zR
– 90min (@ 90min_Football) 20 May 2020
“The difference is incredible. It’s a big difference. I felt that during my first ten games I could not play more than 70 minutes because of the intensity,” he said. “Because it was more compact in Italy, the team went out more together. Here is a lot of running, a lot of speed.
“Wow, they told me it was intense, but I did not expect all this. Then I had to work on the physical part, to be able to take it – because it is very close, it is very strong.”
Anderson and West Ham, however, overcame their slow start, and the Brazilian was soon entertaining at London Stadium. His confidence grew with each game played, the kick started with a huge back heel that hit Manchester United in a 3-1 victory.
A stay against Burnley did not follow far behind, as well as a superb drive and finish away at Newcastle and an electrifying double at Southampton. Anderson had established himself as one of West Ham’s brightest and most consistent artists and ended the 2018/19 season with nine goals in 36 Premier League matches. He also struck with four assists.
But for all the good in Anderson, there was a mistaken feeling that he was never fully settled. When West Ham played poorly, he was more often than not one of the more anonymous artists. The pace of the game that he admitted he was struggling with again seemed to be a problem, and defensive responsibility and tracking was never his thing.
Fornals was the main recipient of Anderson’s first departure / JUSTIN TALLIS / Getty Images
Hammer’s decent start to the 2019/20 season faded quickly and so did Anderson. It was no surprise then that when David Moyes took over at West Ham for the second time, he quickly looked up the weaker links in the side.
Moyes needed his team to be harder to beat, and although the results would not be immediately apparent, there was clearly extra stability and resilience to West Ham’s performances. Unfortunately for Anderson, the shots largely liked other options to make it happen, namely Pablo Fornals.
The Spaniard, technically gifted with a good eye for a pass, was willing to run into the ground, every game. Anderson, on the other hand, was not so full of beans. To this day, Fornals is one of West Ham’s most important players, as he not only covers the ground defensively but has successfully completed his own adjustment period and is much more fluid and consistent going forward.
As for Anderson, he is on his way back to familiar ground. After a desperate disappointing loan spell at Portuguese giants FC Porto, which only gave a Premier League start and 131 minutes of action, he returned to West Ham aware that he was likely to leave for good. That step has now come in the form of a permanent return to Lazio.
Anderson was exceptional in spells for West Ham, but anonymous in others / GLYN KIRK / Getty Images
The most disappointing thing for West Ham is taking another huge financial hit. Anderson cost a lot of money, as Sebastien Haller did a year later, but he has retired to Serie A for a maximum nominal fee. His £ 100,000 a week salary is gone – clearly a big plus for the club – but the Hammers never got anywhere near £ 35 million players.
At 28, Anderson has plenty of time to find his mojo again and play in Serie A. Football style that suits him and there are all chances that will happen. For West Ham, his exit is bitterly disappointing – especially for those who felt he had more to give – but also necessary to let the club follow their summer goals.
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