Fans' Opinion

It ain’t necessarily so – A bit of a defence of Felipe Anderson

Author: . Published: at 9:52pm

Written by: Nick Moore

When we watch football we often see what we expect to see. Snodgrass, Noble and Rice are players who usually get a pretty easy ride from the fans; Anderson less so.

People aren’t going to like this – in fact one suspects it’s going to go down like a lead balloon or a concrete parachute – but it would be nice to see Anderson stay on the pitch and not be continually substituted. On Saturday, those sitting next to me were moaning about Felipe Anderson as being part of the problem. The crowd around me seemed to target him too. On the tube on the way home, a friend of a friend was moaning about Felipe Anderson too – but this fan likes him as a player, and the decision to take him off at half time was stupid. Antonio definitely needed to come on. He did make a difference. But taking Anderson off is perverse.

It isn’t that Anderson is playing particularly well, but he contributed more than Haller or Yarmolenko. He was certainly easier to get the ball to. There was one challenge he bottled and that never goes down well. But he was unlikely to win that ball.

We like to see a tackle when we’re struggling. A lot of the fan comments picked out Noble and Rice as playing well, which you wouldn’t argue with – but if we are giving Anderson stick we do need to look at the first goal. Haller is beaten easily to the ball. The ball is given to Winks in central midfield just in the West Ham half. There is no pressure on him. He passes the ball forward to Alli again under no pressure from our central midfield. He plays in Son who has drifted in from the left. Son doesn’t have to work that hard to get space past Diop to get his shot off. Roberto misses it.

Roberto doesn’t need any additional stick from me, but plenty of other terrible defending led to that goal. There was absolutely no pressure on the ball at any point. A lot of our current defending is reminiscent of the last days of Slav. We don’t pressure the man on the ball so it’s easy to play passes. We don’t track runners. We get out muscled at set pieces. Every team we play know we lack pace in midfield.   

Anderson has played 11 games this season. He has been substituted 8 times. This includes twice at half time. Only once has it been late in the game – the eighty eighth minute – against Norwich, when we were still dreaming of Europe and sacking the manager was the last thing on our minds. In that game even his detractors had to admit he played well.

But the substitution of Anderson has become a pattern – and yet he is currently top for assists (only three, but only the injured Lanzini has more than one so far.) He is second on passes and third on shots. Undoubtedly he needs a goal. More surprisingly, he is third for tackles and also third for interceptions. 

Last year’s statistics tell an interesting story too. He was second top goal scorer – indeed led the way for much of the year while Arnie messed about. He was also joint third on assists, top on passes, third on shots and…. second for tackles and third for interceptions.

Of course lies, damned lies and statistics, some will say. But we seem to have forgotten just how good he was last year when we went on our autumn winning run and also when Arnie was injured/dreaming of China and suitcases of cash. He has pace and is our best dribbler so taking him off in the later stages when the game opens up is a difficult decision to understand.

Last year he was a central figure but this year the substitutions have helped sap his confidence. He is one of the few players in the side who will play an early ball before the defence is set. He also has amazing quick feet which means even when does magic you don’t always see it. If you don’t believe it, google the collection of nutmegs he did last season. How many were you there for and how many did you see at the time?

Against Sheffield United he was brought off on 66 minutes with Lanzini coming on. Sheffield United equalised in the 69th minute. And later Pellegrini took off Noble (Fornals came on) and unbelievably then took off Snodgrass for the goal machine that is Ajeti.

When you are in trouble you need your workers but you also need those players who ask questions of the opposition. As the great Dave Walker has said the difference between a bad Lanzini performance and a bad Anderson performance is that Anderson may still do the one thing that will win the game.

We’re one place above the relegation places. On current form (last eight matches) we’re in the relegation zone. It would help if we defended better. If we have a dodgy keeper we need to press the ball much much better. And at the other end it would help if our most creative player was on the pitch for the last quarter of the game.