Goals against Burnley, Huddersfield, Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Southampton, devastating attacking displays against Fulham and Arsenal, and two consecutive nominations for Premier League Player of the Month. It’s fair to say the congested winter fixture list was a storming success for Felipe Anderson.
That slew of strikes, which included two match-winning doubles in the games against Southampton and Burnley, has made the Brazilian West Ham’s top scorer of the season so far – and he also leads the way in terms of chances created.
With figures and performances like that, the £36 million the Hammers paid to sign him from Lazio is starting to look like a fine bit of business.
As a result, he has started to develop a close relationship with the fans. Speaking of the London Stadium faithful after the Arsenal game, Felipe said, “We know how much they love us and that inspires us, because we feel it on the pitch and it is also an ingredient in our victories, they are always with us."
While West Ham knew they were getting a good player last summer – a skilful, creative and pacy attacking presence – it is the other elements of Felipe’s play that have so pleasantly surprised fans in east London.
The ex-Santos man’s finishing has been efficient (66% of his shots have been on target) and the way he strikes set pieces and passes the ball is both aesthetically pleasing and effective.
With Andriy Yarmolenko out for an extended period, he has taken responsibility as the Irons’ main creative outlet, starting all of their 23 games so far this campaign.
And even when he doesn’t play particularly well, the 25-year-old has been prepared to put in a shift for his team, chasing back and tackling deep into his own half of the field.
Some have criticised him for those occasional below-par showings, with ex-Iron Tony Cottee recently telling talkSPORT that, “I don’t think he’s been our most consistent player this season.” But his up-and-down displays are to be expected in a team that is itself more than capable of having a collective off-day.
Interested observers in his homeland, where the Premier League is the most-watched foreign competition, have been impressed as well, and there is now talk of a first call-up to the Brazil team since his debut in 2015.
“He deserves it,” says Bruno Freitas, a lifelong Santos fan and journalist for Brazilian site UOL Esporte.
When Felipe Anderson was at the famous Brazilian club, Freitas continues, “He looked very promising, despite poor shooting from outside the box, which he has now improved, but he didn’t get enough opportunities to show what he could do.
“He played under the management of [legendary Brazilian coach] Muricy Ramalho, who criticised him in interviews a couple of times, in terms of how much he was willing to give to the team. Those were Neymar’s best days at Santos, so the team didn’t need new players,” Freitas concludes.
Additionally, Felipe failed to impress when called into the Brazil U20 team and was poor at the 2016 Rio Olympics. In the latter tournament, he was in the line-up for the first two games but was dragged off at half time in the second of them and did not start again.
The subsequent reluctance to call him up, especially with so many good left-forward options for the Brazil manager to choose from, has therefore been understandable.
The upward trajectory of his development in recent seasons, however, has been mightily impressive. And now, with Felipe’s fine form coinciding with another injury to Neymar, the time seems right for Tite to bring him into the fold.
The Selecao have a friendly with the Czech Republic in Prague in March, and the absence of Paris Saint-Germain’s star man has already been confirmed.
Philippe Coutinho, another possibility for the position, has also been poor for Barcelona in recent weeks, further strengthening the West Ham winger’s claim for a spot in the squad.
Against Wolves on Tuesday night, West Ham did not turn up and neither did their number 8 – as a result, the Hammers recorded their third defeat on the trot.
Next Monday, though, they will have the perfect opportunity to make amends. League leaders Liverpool visit the London Stadium and two of Tite’s assistants, Cleber Xavier and Fernando Lazaro, will be on hand as part of a cross-Europe scouting mission, casting their eyes over current and potential national team players.
If against Jurgen Klopp’s Reds Felipe Anderson can perform at the level he managed over Christmas and New Year, it will be hard for the Selecao’s selectors to ignore him much longer. And a call-up now would be exactly the chance he has dreamed of.
The Copa America will be played in Brazil in June and July, and after a brilliant breakout season in the Premier League, a first major tournament on home soil would be the perfect way to ice the cake.