Super South Americans: Felipe Anderson and Balbuena impress on debut

Felipe Anderson in pre-season action against Aston Villa


West Ham United’s pair of South American summer signings both impressed on their pre-season debuts at Aston Villa on Wednesday evening.

Brazilian winger Felipe Anderson and Paraguayan centre-half Fabian Balbuena were handed their first appearances by Chilean Manuel Pellegrini at the Banks’s Stadium, and did not disappoint as West Ham ran out deserved 3-1 winners.

Playing wide on the left of the attacking midfield three, Felipe Anderson used the ball intelligently and showed glimpses of the talent which made him one of Serie A’s standout players with his former club Lazio.

The new signings’ standout moment was their vital involvement in West Ham’s sensational second goal, which saw eight different players and 12 passes carve Aston Villa apart.

From Adrian at the back, the ball was also touched by Balbuena, Declan Rice, Balbuena again, who then split the Villa midfield with a superb 20-yard forward pass to Marko Arnautovic. The Austrian combined twice with Mark Noble before Angelo Ogbonna spread the play wide left to Arthur Masuaku.

Watch highlights of the Hammers' Villa victory

The left-back then combined with devastating effect with Felipe Anderson, whose inch-perfect pass sent Masuaku clear down the left, from where his cut-back was converted by Arnautovic.

It was a goal of sheer brilliance that will alert future Premier League defences to the threat carried by Pellegrini’s Hammers, and an illustration of how comfortable every West Ham player is on the ball.

Concentrating on Felipe Anderson’s all-round performance, the 25-year-old played wide on the left of the attacking midfield three. From there, he made himself available to receive the ball and combined well with Masuaku.

And the winger could have grabbed an assist five minutes before half-time when his through ball looked to have played in Antonio before the No30 appeared to be blocked off by Tommy Elphick.

Defensively, he also showed willingness to track back with Villa right-back James Bree and close down the threatening Jack Grealish. He was even in the right place to head one Jonathan Kodjia cross clear of his own penalty area.


Fabian Balbuena completed a perfect 40 out of 40 attempted passes


Balbuena was hugely impressive playing as a right centre-half alongside Italy international Ogbonna.

Looking calm and comfortable throughout, Balbuena completed three passes to three different players within the opening 20 seconds, immediately illustrating his accurate use of the ball in possession.

Amazingly, by the time he was replaced by Issa Diop at half-time, the 26-year-old had completed a perfect 40 out of the 40 passes he attempted!
The former Corinthians man did not just complete short, simple passes either, clipping four accurate longer balls into the midfield for Arnautovic and Michail Antonio, including one to the Austrian in the build-up to the second goal

Balbuena also showed the defensive qualities that saw him win the Campeanato Brasileiro Golden Ball award, making six important clearances, closing his man down quickly and letting Villa centre forward Kodjia know he was in for a physically demanding evening.

While it was a pre-season match against Championship opposition, the initial signs are that both of West Ham’s recent South American imports will have no problems settling into English football.