If we were to list the attributes of the striker we would all like to sign in the summer I believe many of us would say the following: Pace, strength, work rate, intelligent runner and, of course, an ability to find the net.
With the way we play, we need a striker who can hold the ball up when we want to go direct, have good heading ability for when the game plan is to get crosses in the box, and be able to make runs in behind a back four to give Lanzini the movement he so desperately craves. In short we need the love child of Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho (without the sulking).
A glance around the Premier League and we can see this type of player. Costa, Lukaku, Kane. Big players that lead the line for their club, score goals and create chances for their team mates. But is it possible that we are already in possession of such a striker? Step forward Michail Antonio. The man from Wandswoth, via Tooting, Reading, Sheffield and Nottingham, is already a crowd favourite at the London Stadium.
His energy and willingness to run himself into the ground for the team endears him to us all. And whilst many of us bemoaned Slaven Bilic’s insistence on playing him at right back at the start of the season, the manager’s decision to play him as our centre forward when our annual striker injury crisis hit, showed that Antonio is more than capable of fulfilling the criteria we require. And the stats go some way to back this up when compared to the aforementioned strikers.
Using Squawka’s player comparison matrix, I looked at the number of chances created, assists, key passes, take ons and, of course, the goals that Antonio has registered this season with all the strikers mentioned. And the results were genuinely surprising. He has scored more headed goals than any of them except Lukaku, who he is level on 6 with. He has the highest number of successful take ons out of all those listed with 73.
Only Lukaku (41), Kane (35) and Deeney (36) have created more chances for their team mates than Antonio (31) and he is also well in the mix with his number of assists (three) compared to those more seasoned strikers, and again Lukaku leads the way with six. In fact he out-scores Giroud, Sturridge, Janssen, Benteke, Negredo and Rondon in all areas. It will come as no surprise that Lukaku, Costa and Kane have scored more than Antonio but of the rest only Benteke (11) and Deeney (10) have scored more than his nine goals, and they didn’t have to play right back at any point.
Compared to our own strikers in their time at the club, he has scored 18 goals in 69 matches, which is a goal every 3.8 games. Andy Carroll has a goal every 3.6 games. Diafra Sakho has one every 2.7. And he is able to stay fit!