West Ham's Felipe Anderson making a strong case for a role with Tite's Brazil
The Felipe Anderson bandwagon is starting to roll.
The Brazilian, who arrived from Lazio in the summer, is suddenly exceeding expectations in his debut season with West Ham. There were fitful signs of promise in an uncertain start for him and Manuel Pellegrini's new look lineup.
After just one goal in his first 10 Premier League games, Anderson has now hit the target seven times in his last nine matches. Many of these have been match-winners -- like the pair against Southampton on Thursday night that turned defeat into victory. It did him no harm at all that this came in the only match played on the night. here was nothing else to share the spotlight and so, back home, the question is starting to be asked; how long until he has a place in the Brazil squad?
His chances are clearly increasing. He has been around the squad for a while but to this point, there have probably been three things against him.
One is his inconsistency. He had an up and down time in five years with Lazio. With no international games until the end of March, he now has to keep producing in order to gain the approval of Brazil coach Tite.
The second blemish is his previous record in the famous yellow shirt, which is hardly impressive. Nearly six years ago, Felipe Anderson was one of the main hopes of a Brazil side that went to Argentina to dispute the South American Under-20 Championships -- always an important conveyor belt to the senior side. The tournament was an unmitigated disaster, both for him and for his teammates as Brazil failed to qualify for that year's Under-20 World Cup. Worse than that, they failed even to reach the decisive second round of the South American competition. And even worse than that, they managed to finish bottom of their group of five. Felipe Anderson made little impact, scoring one goal from the penalty spot.
He treasures an Olympic gold medal from the Rio Games of 2016 but it is not a competition that he can look back on with a great deal of pleasure. He was in the starting lineup for the opening game -- a dire 0-0 draw against South Africa. he scoreline was the same, and the performance even worse in the next match against Iraq. Felipe Anderson was withdrawn at half-time, and spent the rest of the tournament on the bench. He came on towards the end of the final against Germany, but was not trusted to take a penalty in the shootout.
This is a player, then, who has hardly covered himself with glory in his previous international opportunities.
Finally, the third problem is working out how he would fit in to the current Brazil side. He was not considered a huge star in his three years playing for Santos, where he perhaps found himself in the shadow of Neymar. And, of course, if he were to win an international call up he would inevitably again be behind Brazil's captain in the pecking order. With Neymar favouring the left side of attack, Anderson could well come into contention for a slot on the other flank. His shooting ability might make him an interesting fit for this position. But if Roberto Firmino continues at centre-forward, then the chances are that Tite will favour Richarlison of Everton, who brings badly needed penalty area presence.
There is the possibility he could fill the more attacking role in the central midfield trio -- the position that he played in the 2016 Olympics. Tite still has high hopes for Philippe Coutinho in this role, and remains convinced that the Barcelona man has the physical capacity to work back and defend without losing attacking effectiveness.
That being said, Brazil's coach clearly worries that the balance of his midfield may not be right -- and it could be that Anderson may have a slight advantage here. West Ham's difficult start to the season at least served to show that their expensive acquisition is willing and able to work back and put in a defensive shift.
It could be that his very versatility -- the capacity to function in both the attacking and the midfield trios -- will get Felipe Anderson over the line. That and a few more match-winning performances like the one against Southampton.