What Has Gone Wrong For West Ham's £52M Man Lucas Paqueta?

Paqueta started for Brazil at the World Cup, but is struggling to make an impact at West Ham
08:00, 16 Apr 2023

Last summer, West Ham spent big again. Almost £200m was spent on bringing the likes of Maxwell Cornet, Gianluca Scamacca, Nayef Aguerd, Emerson, Flynn Downes and Thilo Kehrer to east London. But there was one club record purchase that excited West Ham fans more than any other. 

£52m man Lucas Paqueta. 

He’d just been voted the best foreign player in Ligue 1 for the 2021/22 season, had established himself as a starter for World Cup favourites Brazil and, at 25, was still approaching the peak of his career. It’s rare that a club like West Ham can attract such a star, without him being over the hill and his purchase was seen as a real coup for the club that had reached the semi-finals of the Europa League last term. 


Under David Moyes, they were a threat on the European stage and finished seventh in the Premier League, having challenged the top four for two thirds of the season. The signings, especially Scamacca and Paqueta, were meant to elevate them to the next level and get them even closer to the Champions League. But it’s gone disastrously wrong.

Instead of fighting in the top half, West Ham are battling relegation. Scamacca has scored just three league goals this term and Paqueta hasn’t been able to live up to the hype around him at the start of the season. It isn’t solely his fault of course, and he has shown moments of elite quality on the ball, but it seems Moyes’ tactics aren’t getting the best out of the Brazilian. 

Remember, at the Qatar World Cup, he was chosen to start alongside Casemiro behind that frightening front four of Neymar, Vinicius Jr, Raphinha and Richarlison. He was given that responsibility ahead of the likes of Fred, Fabinho and Bruno Guimaeres, such was Tite’s belief in the left-footed West Ham man. 

Their World Cup ended with a shock penalty shootout defeat to Croatia but Paqueta impressed in Qatar. For all of Brazil’s superstars from PSG and Real Madrid, the West Ham man didn’t look out of place. 

At club level, he should be able to flourish but he is currently being hamstrung by a manager who doesn’t know how to get the best out of him. When he joined, Moyes chose to deploy him as a number ten due to his ball-striking abilities, but it was clear this position wasn’t getting the best out of him. 

Pacqueta is far too good at defensive actions to be wasted that high up the pitch, yet his offensive qualities can’t be ignored - as they sometimes have been when Moyes has moved him backwards into the double pivot. Alongside Declan Rice, the Hammers boast two of the finest midfielders in the league, yet they haven’t been able to strike up a successful partnership - perhaps due to that missing third link. 

The Brazilian has recently stated that his preferred position is on the left of a central three, and with Rice able to do the holding role, West Ham still need to find the right player to complete the trio. From what we have seen so far this term, it is not Thomas Soucek. The giant Czech international is a goalscoring threat from set pieces, but he is too careless on the ball and unambitious with passes to compliment Pacqueta and Rice. 

The sensible choice would be for Pablo Fornals to drop in and West Ham to play with two number eights with freedom to get forward. It would increase Rice’s responsibility defensively, but Fornals is comfortable on the ball and can progress with it, giving Moyes a more competent midfield trio that should be able to boss games against weaker opposition. 

Pacqueta is a class act, but we have only seen it in glimpses so far. Compared to other midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues, he’s in the 96th percentile for shots over the last year, the 93rd percentile for blocks and the 91st for touching in the opposition's penalty area. He’s the complete central midfielder that is seemingly being wasted at West Ham. 

Given how Guimaraes is flourishing at Newcastle, it seems like the wrong club for Paqueta, at the wrong time. But if West Ham stay up, Rice stays and Moyes moves on, we could see the emergence of one of the Premier League’s best all-round midfielders next term. 

*18+ | BeGambleAware

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