With Marko Arnautovic reclassified as a forward, Manuel Lanzini out long-term through injury and Michail Antonio supposedly surplus to requirements, Fantasy managers are now presented with new and mostly unfamiliar routes into West Ham United’s midfield.
Winger Andriy Yarmolenko (£7.0m) has already joined the Hammers from Borussia Dortmund and his eye-catching goal-scoring record with Dynamo Kyiv will have attracted plenty of interest from Fantasy Premier League bosses.
Jack Wilshere (£5.0m), meanwhile, now has to be considered as a viable budget pick, albeit not one who is likely to offer anything more than the occasional attacking return from the three-man central midfield that new manager Manuel Pellegrini seems likely to roll out.
Felipe Anderson (£7.0m) is the latest name to add to West Ham’s midfield mix. The Brazilian playmaker signed for the Hammers for a club-record fee – which could rise above £40m – last week and has penned a four-year contract with the east London side.
Available for the same price as Yarmalenko and indeed Arnautovic in FPL, Anderson had, at the time of writing, already worked his way into 4.3% of Fantasy squads despite not yet featuring for the Hammers in pre-season.
While Anderson’s goal-scoring record doesn’t make for great reading – the former Lazio player has only hit double figures for league goals once in his career and was on target on just four occasions in 2017/18 – the 25-year-old’s wider game is worthy of deeper scrutiny.
As well as recording seven assists for Lazio in Serie A last season, the Brazil international completed more successful dribbles per 90 minutes of action than any player in the Italian top flight.
That last statistic is particularly arresting, with successful take-ons rewarded on the Bonus Points System in FPL.
It should also be noted that Anderson’s involvement in those 11 Serie A goals last season came from just nine starts and 12 substitute appearances. Afforded more game time with the Hammers, the Brazilian midfielder has the undoubted potential to prove better value for money than some premium FPL midfielders in 2018/19.
Born in Santa Maria in Brazil in 1993, Anderson was snapped up as a 14-year-old by Santos and progressed through the Brazilian giants’ youth set-up into the senior squad at the age of 17.
Featuring sporadically in the 2010 and 2011 campaigns (the Brazilian season running from spring to winter), Anderson was to become a permanent fixture in the Santos team alongside Neymar in 2012.
That breakthrough campaign saw Anderson score on six occasions and register seven assists in 35 Brazilian top-flight appearances, with West Ham’s record signing directly involved in seven goals in Santos’ final ten league matches.
The strong end to Anderson’s 2012 season attracted the attention of Lazio, who signed the Brazil under-20 prospect for €7.8m in June 2013.
His debut season in Serie A saw Anderson make fitful appearances for the Rome club, but the 2014/15 campaign was the Brazilian midfielder’s most productive season to date.
Despite making just 23 league starts and a further nine cameo appearances from the bench, Anderson scored on ten occasions and recorded eight assists as Lazio finished third – their highest position in eight seasons – and reached the final of the Coppa Italia. Only Franco Vazquez of Palermo attempted more dribbles than Anderson during that season.
Seven goals and five assists followed the next season as Anderson once again struggled to nail down a regular starting spot (14 of his 35 appearances were as a substitute), but the 2016/17 campaign saw the Brazilian midfielder finally become a permanent fixture in the Lazio side.
Anderson started more than 30 league matches for the first and only time in his professional career, with just three of his 34 league appearances coming as a substitute. Four goals and a career-best 11 assists were complemented by 75 key passes (only four Serie A players made more) and a division-high 117 successful dribbles.
A muscle tear ruled Anderson out of the first four months of the 2017/18 season and the Brazilian was to make only nine starts in his final campaign with Lazio. Anderson left Rome with 25 goals and 33 assists to his name from 137 appearances, 44 of which came as a substitute.
West Ham’s start to 2018/19 is a fairly daunting one, with five of last season’s top six sides to play in the first nine Gameweeks.
The Hammers’ home fixtures against Bournemouth – who had the fourth-worst defensive record in the Premier League last season – and newly promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers in the first four Gameweeks are enticing matches from a Fantasy perspective, however.
Marko Arnautovic is already proving a popular pick in FPL and is the fifth-most owned forward in the game, sitting in just under 24% of Fantasy squads and bang in form with three goals to his name in pre-season (at the time of writing).
Whether Fantasy managers would be willing to “double-up” on Hammers’ assets during their tricky run of fixtures from now till late-October is doubtful, but Anderson represents an interesting alternative for those who are unwilling to swallow Arnautovic’s positional reclassification.
Arnautovic, Yarmolenko and Anderson – A 2017/18 Comparison
|Player||Appearances||Starts||Goals||Assists||Mins Per Chance||Mins Per Chance Created||Successful dribbles|
While Anderson evidently doesn’t pose as much goal threat as Arnautovic or Yarmolenko, the statistics reflect just how much more creative the Brazilian international is.
A chance creation rate of one every 30 minutes beats that of all West Ham regulars last season and ranks not far behind the Premier League high-mark set by Cesc Fabregas and Mesut Ozil, who created a chance once every 26 minutes on average in 2017/18.
Having regularly taken corners and free-kicks during his time in Italy, Anderson looks likely to feature prominently at set-piece situations, too.
Anderson ranked eighth for take-ons completed in Serie A last season, despite only seeing 1,151 minutes of action. Needless to say, his successful dribbles-per-90 minutes played rate of 6.02 was the best in the Italian top tier. Only Eden Hazard could beat that figure among Premier League midfielders, meanwhile.
That the FPL Bonus Points System rewards both key passes and successful dribbles bodes well for Anderson’s bonus point potential.
We are, of course, yet to see the Brazilian midfielder in action in a West Ham shirt. It will be intriguing to see where Pellegrini stations Anderson in his starting XI, given that he and Yarmolenko have both featured prominently on the right wing throughout their careers. Anderson played the 2016/17 campaign almost entirely on the right flank, while Yarmolenko has for a long time now been an “inverted winger” in the Arjen Robben mould.
The fact that the Ukrainian wide-man is predominantly left-footed means that Yarmolenko could be farmed out to the left flank, with Anderson taking up position on the opposite wing in the 4-3-3 system that Pellegrini has rolled out in pre-season. Yarmolenko’s low rate of successful take-ons in the above table, however, is illustrative of how the Ukraine international prefers to cut inside from a wing position, rather than beat the full-back.
Another option would be to tweak the system to a 4-2-3-1, sacrificing one of the deeper holding midfielders to allow Anderson to occupy the “number 10” role – as he frequently has done – and Yarmolenko to remain on the right flank.
With friendlies against Aston Villa, Ipswich Town, Mainz and Angers still to come, we should have sufficient data to assess Anderson’s starting position, match fitness and worth before the Hammers’ Gameweek 1 match against Liverpool on August 12th.
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