When Joao Mario joined West Ham during the January transfer window, a lot was expected of him, and rightly so. The 25-year-old has taken time to settle into the Premier League, but after his performance in West Ham’s 3-0 thrashing of Southampton, he seems to be finally finding his feet.
During the Portuguese International’s first few games for the club, Mario showed glimpses of what he was capable of. He was composed on the ball, kept possession extremely well, and was creating chances. Assisting Chicharito for his equalizer away to Brighton most notably. However, after those first few impressive displays, Joao Mario hit a rough patch of form, starting with the Liverpool game.
Liverpool pressed West Ham high time and time again throughout the match, and their game plan worked to perfection. Mario was one of the players who seemed to be made most uncomfortable by the Reds high tempo, high pressing style of play. Coming from the Serie A, where the game is a bit slower compared to the Premier League, Mario couldn’t handle Liverpool’s relentless press. It was clear the 25-year-old was going to need more time to get used to the pace of play in the Premier League.
After being dropped for the Swansea match, his performance against Burnley wasn’t very inspiring either. After showing glimpses of quality in the first half, the number 18 was non-existent in the second half, before being substituted in the 71st minute.
Moyes showed his trust in the Portuguese International though, starting him in arguably West Ham’s biggest match since the Playoff Final in 2012. Moyes’ trust paid off as Mario delivered his best performance in a West Ham shirt to date. The 25-year-old did everything he was brought in to do. Mario was creating chances, supporting Arnautovic in attack, and dropping into the midfield from his more advanced position to help slow the game down when it needed to be.
The on loan Inter Milan midfielder showed what he was capable of, and not just in glimpses this time. Mario showed his ability to control a game from the midfield, and help build attacks from deep, which is exactly what he was brought in to do. He especially showed his ability to control a game in the second half, where every time Southampton may have created some momentum to try and build on, the 25-year-old slowed the game down, and helped the Hammers keep possession. Mario’s calmness in the midfield is something West Ham have been crying out for for a long time now, and if he can continue to put in performances like this week in, week out, the Hammers should look to keep him around on a permanent basis.
This performance should do wonders for the number 18’s confidence, and we can only hope he will build off of it. With the likes of Lanzini coming back from injury, there will only be more quality surrounding Joao Mario for him to play with. West Ham could haven found a special player in Joao Mario if performances like this become a regular occurrence. One thing is for sure, West Ham United are a better team when Joao Mario is in it.