His time is almost over but there’s still life in Antonio yet

He's done enough to leave with his head held high but we need Michail scoring again before he departs

Michail Antonio (WHU) at the West Ham United v Chelsea EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on February 11, 2023.

Michail Antonio has had a lengthy, and often very fruitful, career at West Ham. He’s made more than 250 appearances in all competitions, scoring 67 goals – an incredible feat from a right back.

He’s been a key fixture in our side for years, but as years go, it’s safe to say this isn’t his best one.  He’s only managed two Premier League goals this year after 22 appearances (averaging roughly 50 minutes per game) – which he’ll know isn’t enough.

He’s had four goals in cup competitions, where he’s scored more often against lesser opposition.  With our rapidly dwindling Premier League status, his podcast criticisms, and the signing of potential replacements for him, his position has become shaky at best – so is it curtains for Antonio, or does the affable beast-mode-man have more to offer the Hammers?

Under Moyes, pressure has been put on Antonio. He’s a lone striker, with Moyes showing a constant, dogged reluctance not only to play a second striker, but also even to sign one. Antonio as our only option has meant his bad days are everyone’s bad days – no Plan B means he’s solely responsible when the goals don’t come.

Any other normal team would provide rotation options to nurture competition and prevent heads from going down during goal droughts. Not us, however. This year a promising approach was made   – another striker was signed. It was hoped that signing Gianluca Scamacca would reduce the pressure on Antonio. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened – and Scamacca has missed the bulk of the season through injury.

It’s not just a huge loss for the Italian and the fans, it’s also a huge loss for Antonio. We could have had a strong potential partnership up front – and instead, Scamacca is largely absent. Even when both players are fit, Moyes isn’t keen to play them together, with them amassing roughly just 56 minutes together on the pitch in the Premier League this season.  

Although both played a role in games against Leeds, Crystal Palace, Man Utd, Bournemouth, Southampton and Villa, they operated a one-on one-off policy on the pitch – and West Ham’s greatest dream of having two up front remains a pie-in-the-sky fantasy.

It’s hard to even pick a preference between the two. On paper, Antonio offers strength and causes chaos to opposing defenders; Scamacca offers flair and fluidity; but neither is delivering. One is under performing, but the other isn’t even making it onto the pitch to perform.

Signing Ings also poses no threat to Antonio. In the five league games they’ve both played in, they’ve yet to play together. In every match, Antonio’s had the majority of the minutes and was subbed off as a straight swap for Ings in the dying embers of the game.

With Ings struggling to get more than 15 minutes in a game that’s largely been decided by the time he comes on, he’s unlikely to push Antonio out any time soon. West Ham are not scoring goals, and David Moyes has no ambition to fix this.  

Even with all the game time, Antonio doesn’t seem over the moon to be at West Ham. His recent podcast comments, while genuinely complementary to his overall time as a Hammer, were the comments of a player who seemed entirely unfussed about leaving.

His intensity has picked up in recent matches, however. He had three decent games (against Everton, Newcastle and Chelsea) netting the Irons five points. He missed a sitter against Everton, but then also registered an assist. He played his best against Chelsea, and was influential in counter-attack, but the goals still aren’t coming – and the less said about the disappointing and lethargic performance against Spurs, the better.

Sadly for Antonio, his future likely isn’t in claret and blue – but it’s important that his time at the club doesn’t end negatively. No one plays in the Premier League forever. Every player eventually ages out of it. At 32, Antonio will be thinking about his next steps to ensure he’s getting regular game time and doing so in the right environment for his abilities.

After all, he’s still got a lot to give and is capable of great performances – they just may not be at the London Stadium. They may be abroad, they may be in the Championship – but they will exist and it’s my great hope that he continues to play and score and enjoy his time doing so.

He will benefit by playing with another striker and he will have to leave West Ham in order to do that. After seven years in claret and blue, he’s done enough on the pitch in nearly every position to leave with his head held high. We just need him to stay strong, stay positive, and get this season over the finish line first.

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