By Dave Langton
Lucas Paqueta arriving at West Ham would solve the major issue the Hammers are facing right now: We’ve gone stale.
The Irons have a very clear way of playing and were hugely successful with it over the past two seasons.
Most of the time, David Moyes sets his team up to not have the ball. The defensive structure is vital to this, and it is why Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek have become so embedded in the starting XI. They defend with the defence, essentially providing a six-man backline, excluding the goalkeeper, and then are able to progress the ball up the pitch.
That’s not an easy thing to do, and it isn’t an easy tactic to effectively coach, but Moyes has managed it.
Then, in the attacking phase, the Hammers move forward as one. Rice and Soucek bomb on, the wingers – mainly Jarrod Bowen and Said Benrahma – fly up the pitch, and there’s suddenly a six-man attack along with Mikey Antonio and either Pablo Fornals or Manuel Lanzini, who are limited when it comes to their ability to break through defences. It worked to perfection against teams such as Liverpool and Spurs in recent seasons and it’s all down to not having the ball and being able to press in transition. It’s worked beautifully.
This season, it has not worked at all.
It’s the same at Liverpool – their high-pressing, heavy-metal football has been found out because teams are ready for it. Take Manchester United beating Liverpool as the example. They exposed the midfield by pressing them high and early and then exploited the gaps left by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. United dominated and they won.
Similar happened when Brighton came to the London Stadium. They were too aggressive to allow the Hammers to settle, they disrupted the six-man block consistently, and they found a way to lose possession without leaving space behind them. It was an excellent coaching job by Graham Potter. Manchester City did much the same on the opening day.
And this is where Paqueta comes in.
Paqueta is a really clever player. He has superb statistical numbers of progressive passing – passes that move the team up the pitch – for dribbles, and for actions that lead to shots. He also presses well and can win the ball back.
He finds tight spaces and operates well within them and is also capable of scoring goals from range.
Paqueta, if he arrives, would essentially negate the need for the six-man attacking block, because he’s so good at finding chances himself, allowing the Hammers’ midfield to be a little bit deeper, offering the defence greater protection, and giving him the chance to be the main creator on the ball.
He can spray it out to the wings, or through the middle, and he can get on the end of interplay between himself and Bowen or himself and Gianluca Scamacca/Mikey Antonio.
He’s the player the Hammers have been crying out for, and he’ll allow Moyes to finally switch it up.
Without him, and without a change, the 4-2-3-1 system he has constantly preferred just won’t work; we need to get this one over the line!