The Frustrating and Enigmatic Felipe Anderson
By Edward Stratmann.
Due to the Stadio Olimpico hosting the Six Nations Rugby contest between Italy and England, Lazio’s Serie A match with Hellas Verona was pushed forward to the unusual timeslot of 7.45pm on a Thursday night.
Stefano Pioli’s men knew they were in for a real battle against the bottom placed strugglers, however, for the Mastiffs were unbeaten in their last five matches heading into the clash. Ultimately, while Luigi Delneri’s side put in a spirited showing, they eventually succumbed to Lazio’s quality, losing 5-2.
One man whose performance deserved special mention was Felipe Anderson. The enigmatic attacker, who’s endured a rather turbulent campaign to date, once again showed why he’s such a frustrating player for Lazio’s fans. On his day, he’s unstoppable, but he’s had far too many off days this season. But then, to remind us all of his incredible talent, he’ll put in a performance like the one against Verona on Thursday. One full of skill, pace, incision and intelligence.
From his post on the right wing, the Brazilian wreaked havoc on his direct opponent, inexperienced 19-year-old left-back Mohamed Fares, by using his speed, trickery, frighteningly quick acceleration and razor sharp changes of direction. In a game where he recorded an outstanding four successful dribbles, the two-footed Anderson posed a hugely unpredictable threat that Fares simply couldn’t deal with. Midway through the first half, Delneri clearly instructed Bosko Jankovic, Verona’s left winger at the time, to track back vigorously and support the young fullback of Algerian descent at all times.
With almost 51 minutes gone, in an attempt to limit Anderson’s influence, Delneri opted to take off Fares and bring on 22-year-old Fiorentina loanee, Gilberto. He then immediately switched Gilberto to right back and moved the vastly experienced Eros Pisano to left back, who started the game at right-back, hoping this would be the tonic to nullify Anderson.
To counteract this Pioli swiftly moved Anderson across to play on the left wing so he could once again isolate himself against an inexperienced opponent in Gilberto. This clever tactical tinkering and brilliant in-game management from the Lazio boss was a real masterstroke, as Anderson instigated the move, with a searing run down the left, that led to him scoring an easy tap in on 69 minutes.
As if playing against a red hot Anderson wasn’t already enough for his two adversaries, the Eagles’ keen willingness to launch long cross-field diagonal passes to the former Santos prodigy, in order to further isolate him in 1v1 situations with his markers, made their job even more challenging.
Even though Lazio’s wildly gifted Brazilian has struggled to replicate his tremendous form from the second half of last season, which propelled him to end the season with 10 goals and seven assists, Pioli insists Anderson has also been a victim of the team’s overall downturn in performance.
“Last year he got outstanding results,” Pioli said. “I don’t want to speak about last year, it’s normal to make comparisons but it’s wrong. The whole context allowed him to perform in a certain way, all the components.
“If he’s not expressing himself at the same level as last season then it’s his fault, but perhaps also the others.
“He is that type of player with a lot of pace and quality. When the moves work, he’s treated like a phenomenon, when they don’t he’s labelled a flop.”
While he’s still scored a decent enough six goals and supplied two assists so far this term, unless he can find some consistency in his game he’ll continue to be a player who divides opinion. However, the man who Manchester United were reportedly heavily linked with in January will be certainly hoping his outstanding display against Verona might just serve as the catalyst he needs to get his season back on track.
For the man who’s best mates with Neymar and has the talent to be anything, you get the sense the sooner he fully matures and adjusts his, at times, petulant attitude the quicker he’ll be able to get the best out of himself.
“I know he has quality,” insisted Pioli. “I believe in him and he must be intelligent enough to recognise those who want to help him and those who want to lead him astray.”
At just 22, there’s still plenty of time for him to reach his potential, however. Having just signed a new five year contract with the Eagles earlier this year, it’s now time for the immensely gifted Anderson to show his club just how good he can be – not just sporadically, but on a regular basis.
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