Written by @emedser for her blog https://betterthanzidane.wordpress.com
Michail Antonio where do I start! Once one of the stand out players at West Ham United now seems disjointed and leaves me frustrated with his decision making. He enjoyed a stellar first couple of seasons with the Hammers but seems to have fallen off this season. Could it be due to a long list of injuries mounting up for the Englishman or is it just his heart isn’t in it anymore or more simply is he just not cut out for it.
The Wandsworth native signed for West Ham United on the 1st of September 2015 for £7 million on a 4 year contract with the option of a further 2 years. Not long after on the 19th September he made his debut in the 60th minute taking over from Victor Moses in the 2-1 victory over Manchester City. He was then not used again until 29th November coming on as a subsititue in the 1-1 draw against West Brom. After this Antonio started every remaining Premier League match for the Hammers. He opened his scoring account for West Ham in the 2-1 victory over Southampton on 28th December, following on from this he managed to bag goals against Liverpool, Aston Villa, Sunderland, Spurs, Everton and Manchester United. With Sam Byram out injured much to his dismay Michail was then utilised as a right back toward the end of the campaign. He just lost out on the Hammer of the year award coming runner up to the infamous Dimitri Payet.
Antonio started the season off with a bang scoring the first ever Premier League goal at the London Stadium in West Ham’s 1-0 victory over AFC Bournemouth on 21st August 2016. In the next 3 Premier League matches against Manchester City, Watford and West Brom, impressively Antonio managed to grab 4 more goals. His incredible performances led to his first England call up for fixtures against Slovakia and Spain, however Michail did not get to play. Back to scoring ways he netted again against Spurs, Liverpool and Swansea and registered 3 more assists in the 3-0 win over Crystal Palace at the London Stadium. Antonio scored his final Premier League goal of the season away at Bournemouth on 21st March 2017, missing the last few games of the season due to a hamstring injury. The season ended with Antonio signing a new long term contract and the Londoner winning the Hammer of the year accolade.
This season Antonio has seemed a shell of the player he had been in the previous 2 seasons he has spent at West Ham United. He seems disinterested, careless and has shown a distinct lack of effort. After the 3-2 loss at Newcastle even manager David Moyes seemed exsaspered saying,
‘He’s an important player for us. We said at half-time we’d have to do something about it but he never gave us anything we could see would be helping us.”
I appreciate that he has been littered with injuries at the end of 2016/17 season he missed the final 6 games due to a hamstring problem having also had to withdraw from the England squad. Then came the groin injury that Michail sustained at the start of the 2017/18 season coming off against Spurs. Then there was a rib injury and now a calf injury, it seems never ending! Since that hamstring problem he never seems to really have got back that spark we saw during the first couple seasons he enjoyed with the Hammers.
He was also left frustrated at being played in an unnatural position, right back. He was played in this position for much of the 2016/17 season but that still did not stop him getting 9 goals and 5 assists in all competitions. This season however he has not been played at right back due to the signing of Zabaleta from Manchester City and in my opinion has been half the player he was in the season he played right back so I don’t think its a question of positioning.
Having said all this his end at Nottingham Forest, his previous club, was much similar to what we are experiencing now with Michail at West Ham United. When Antonio joined Forest in August 2014 for a small fee of £1.5 million he hit the ground running! In his first 5 league matches he bagged 3 goals and 3 assists and ended up starting every league match in his opening season with Forest, scoring 14 goals and being named player of the season in May 2015. After that things seemed to go downhill for Antonio as he was left out of Forest’s Championship match against Charlton Athletic on 19th August 2015, with his then manager Dougie Freedman stating that the winger was not “in the right frame of mind” to play. Consequently on 26th August West Ham joined the bidding for Antonio along with West Bromwich Albion. He opted to sign for the Hammers and put pen to paper on 1st September 2015. This is story that should sound all too familiar to West Ham fans as it sounds almost identical to the situation they find themselves in with Antonio at the moment. His frame of mind seems elsewhere and whether this is due to his mountain of injuries or something else I just cannot say.
I truly hope that this can be resolved as at the moment we need everybody on board and playing for the team, all hands on deck! When Antonio has recovered I hope to see some renewed energy and enthusiasm and hopefully some goals.
What is your opinion? Can and should Antonio be doing better? Does he have the ability? Are injuries playing a part? Is his heart still in it? Does he still hold a grudge due to being played out of position? How can he turn it around? Will he improve? Let me know your thoughts 🙂
Thanks for reading.