The appointment of Manuel Pellegrini has breathed some much-needed optimism into the London Stadium after a fractious 2017/18 campaign. But Irons supporters will be just as aware as West Ham’s new manager that fresh signings are crucial to making their shared vision of exciting, attacking football come alive in east London.
Signings too, are an incredibly sore spot for the fans – one of the key divisions between themselves and the board – so reports of West Ham targeting Lazio’s Felipe Anderson and PSG’s Javier Pastore have inevitably picked up some traction. Both are well-established and proven names in European football but perhaps most importantly, both offer an abundance of creativity and attacking flair.
In league action last season, they averaged one goal involvement per 124 minutes – which is made all the more impressive by the fact neither were starting XI regulars for the whole campaign.
Indeed, Pastore and Anderson have just come to the end of incredibly similar seasons in terms of game-time, albeit for varying reasons, resulting in them missing out on spots in the Argentina and Brazil teams respectively at this summer’s World Cup. Whereas injury stopped the 25-year-old winger from featuring until December, at which point he found his game-time still somewhat hampered by Luis Alberto’s starring role, Pastore’s once again struggled to contend with the sheer weight of competition at Parc de Princes.
Their output too, was incredibly close – separated only by Anderson’s two extra goals. But in many senses, it’s not so much about how they’re performing for their current clubs and rather their capacity to perform for firstly West Ham and secondly in Pellegrini’s customary 4-2-2-2 formation. That, in addition to the three-year gap in age, is where we start to see the biggest differences, especially when West Ham’s other top creative midfield talent – Manuel Lanzini – is brought into the equation as well.
Consider how Pellegrini set up his midfield at Manchester City; in front of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho, the left attacking midfield berth was shared between David Silva and Samir Nasri, while the Chilean brought in his own man from Sevilla for the other flank in Jesus Navas, someone who wasn’t of the greatest end product but gave vital dynamism, speed and counter-attacking threat to the team.
West Ham’s lack of that was a key problem last season too – a big part of the reason Arthur Masuaku became such a surprisingly invaluable player at left wing-back was because he was one of the few at David Moyes’ disposal who had the natural pace and trickery to get West Ham moving on the break.
Assuming Lanzini remains an important component in Pellegrini’s plans then, and assuming he’ll take up the left attacking midfield role in the same mould as Silva and Nasri, the right berth needs another creative presence but one that can inject real speed into the team. Anderson – valued at £22.5million by Transfermarkt – offers that in abundance.
Pastore, though, has never been a lightening quick player to the same degree and at the age of 28, his game has increasingly focused on taking up central pockets of space and making things happen in congested areas. It’s a fantastic quality to have, but not necessarily what this Hammers side truly requires.
Of course, there is the potential to sign both and play Pastore in a deeper role as part of the midfield two – he actually made more appearances as a central midfielder than a winger or No.10 for PSG last season. That would certainly qualify under Pellegrini’s mandate of attacking football, but would also put far too much pressure on the Argentine’s prospective midfield partner.
Whether it’s Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble or Pedro Obiang, they’ll essentially be conducting the leg work of two central midfielders. Fernandinho could just about manage it for Toure at City, at least during Pellegrini’s first season, but Pastore would need to play out of his skin to justify such special treatment for the Hammers.
So, West Ham fans, which creative talent would you prefer to see arrive at the London Stadium? Let us know by voting below…