Why Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal should renew their interest in Felipe Anderson

Over the last two years, few players have been linked with a big-money move to the Premier League quite as often as Felipe Anderson.

The Lazio attacker was thought to be the apple of Manchester United’s eye in the summer of 2015, the following January window and then again the summer after, while Chelsea have been frequently named as potential suitors.

However, the rumours of a move to England of the 24-year-old Brazilian appear to have completely dried up ahead of the 2017/18 campaign, with the player seemingly forgotten about or no longer deemed suitable as other targets are pursued.

But, somewhat conversely, Anderson has never been more ready to shine on the Premier League stage than he is right now, coming off the back of a season in which he made huge developmental strides with the Biancocesleste.

The former Santos man’s talent has never been in doubt, but reports of £40million-plus moves to Old Trafford and Stamford bridge always raised eyebrows in the past as the player was frustratingly inconsistent and tactically undisciplined.

Now, however, there are no such concerns, yet interest in the Lazio man appears at a near all-time low. 

Upon moving to the Stadio Olimpico in 2013, the one-cap Brazilian international took time to settle in, but by his second season in Rome he was the creative force driving Lazio’s climb to a third-place Serie A finish, earning Champions League qualification.

Comfortable on either flank or centrally as a No.10, Anderson’s dynamic pace, mesmerising dribbling ability and powerful shooting technique made him one of the most unpredictable and feared forwards in Italy, contributing 11 goals and 10 assists in all competitions.

There were periods, often stretching several weeks at a time, when Anderson would be wholly ineffective, though. He would cut an uninterested, selfish and hugely frustrating figure during these intervals, a passenger in the Lazio line-up.

This inconsistency plagued his 2015/16 campaign too. The flashes of inspired brilliance remained, yet so too did the spells of poor form, even leading to him losing his place in the team mid-season.

Yet throughout, Anderson was constantly tipped for a mega-money move to England, with Louis van Gaal’s United supposedly hot on his tail.

Either no such offers were forthcoming or any bids that were made were rejected by Lazio; Anderson stayed put. And lucky he did too, because the improvements he made under Simone Inzaghi last season have made him a much more rounded and efficient player.

Anderson added a renewed level of work rate to his game, doing his share of the defensive duties when stationed wide, pressing from the front and being unafraid involve himself physically. He also became more of a team player, no longer feeling the need to hog the limelight, happy to help those around him shine and seeming to take enjoyment from the subtler aspects of his creative arsenal – the neat one-twos, passes around the corner and tidy lay-offs -- rather than trying to do it all himself.

What’s more, where once his position shifting was seen as a negative, never able to truly establish himself as a winger or a No.10, his versatility was an asset for Lazio last season. Predominantly deployed on the right flank, Anderson was also often stationed on the left and even operated as a wing-back several times – something that would have been impossible without the development of his defensive sensibilities.

This is not to suggest that he in some way neglected his remarkable individual gifts, either. With an average of 3.6 completed take-ons per 90 minutes, Anderson was a more prolific dribbler than any Serie A player with over a thousand minutes under their belt. His searing pace was put to use in transition, turning defence into attack in seconds flat, and his eye for a defence-splitting ball was sharper than ever, returning a career-high 2.3 key passes per 90.

As a result of his role being largely that of a more conventional winger last term, Anderson’s goals return was lower than in previous seasons, scoring five times in the league. But his overall contribution to all phases of play, as well as the nine assists he conjured, made him an asset for Inzaghi.

Anderson’s newfound consistency is not in itself an adjustment that Anderson has made, but rather a by-product of the incremental gains he has reaped over the last 12 months.

United’s drawn-out pursuit of Inter Milan’s Ivan Perišić suggests José Mourinho desires a more orthodox wide man to supplement his attack. Although the Croatian attempted more crosses than Anderson last season, the Lazio star was more accurate in his delivery, finding a colleague with a centre 1.2 times per game to the former Borussia Dortmund player’s 1.1, and registered more assists (nine to eight) – perhaps the Red Devils would be better served switching their attention to their former target.

Chelsea, too, could benefit from the addition of Anderson, who would be a perfect fit for the right inside-forward position in Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3 as well as adding depth in the wing-back positions.

Similarly, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur could both be looking to fill positions Anderson excels in this summer. His ability to play anywhere behind the striker in 4-2-3-1 or as a wing-back or inside-forward in 3-4-3 makes him ideal for both North London sides.

He may have slipped from the radar of the Premier League’s biggest clubs, and that will undoubtedly be fine with Lazio for the time being. But with Anderson finally ready to perform consistently and efficiently at the highest level, the riches of England’s top flight would be well spent on his acquisition.