How should Moyes and West Ham handle the Antonio conundrum?

What could happen if Michail gets injured or suspended? We explore the variations for the Moyesiah

Julian Alvarez (MC) Michail Antonio (WHU) at the West Ham United v Manchester City EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on 16th September, 2023.

Michail is one of the most important players in our squad. We look lost when he isn’t playing, and that is a problem for quite a few reasons. One reason is that it’s an enormous amount of pressure to put on a player, especially one that is starved of service considering the position that he plays.

That pressure can also go one of two ways; mentally and physically it takes its toll when you know you’re pretty much the main focal point, you’re going to have to be near perfect every game. It can also go the other way; he’ll have a huge ego knowing the team relies on him and can’t function without him. Neither of those might be true but if that is the case then one does have to wonder what his state of mind actually is.

Take our trip to Anfield for example: he was clearly very confident regarding Liverpool, so much so he talks himself and the club up during his podcast appearance, and then drops a hugely below par performance and is substituted in the second half, leaving most people feeling frustrated with him and possibly embarrassed for him.

He’s the club’s record Premier League scorer. That’s a fact no one can take from him. He’s been preferred over record signings such as Haller and Scamacca. He keeps an experienced Premier League striker in Danny Ings from starting games.

Youth players can’t get game time because they just don’t match his physicality or aren’t trusted enough over him. He’s basically undroppable, and that makes sense when he’s on his game as he’s near enough unplayable.

There aren’t many defenders that enjoy playing against him. What he lacks in technical ability, he more than makes up for in his strength, power and desire. But therein lies the problem; those attributes are only effective if he’s on top form. If he isn’t at his best, not only does his performance suffer but so does the whole team.

David Moyes clearly relies on him as his main man, even to the point where at one stage he turned down signing Julian Alvarez (now of Man City) because Michail was playing so well. That to me has never made sense but perhaps others see the sense in it.

We’ve had a really good start to the season. We seemingly rediscovered the form that got us into Europe the first time round and the signings we’ve made have almost made us forget about that bloke who went to Arsenal for loads of money. But in the last two games against Man City and Liverpool cracks have seemingly appeared. Yes most of us don’t expect to win or even to particularly play well, however when problems arise they are hard to ignore.

Coufal’s lack of pace was a problem against Doku, and Aguerd made mistakes that led to goals in both games. Moyes has replacements for both players in Kehrer and Mavropanos. But with Antonio, there’s no seemingly obvious alternative.

Moyes has said in the past he likes the idea of Bowen as striker. Kudus could potentially play there as well. The problem is those two don’t have the physical presence Antonio has. If you played with Bowen and Kudus in future games, our counter attacking would have to be faultless every single time, and at the moment it just isn’t.

It’s good, but it isn’t perfect. We showed in the first half against Topola that we struggle when a team plays the same way as us, we only started scoring once Antonio had been brought on. So to a degree we’ve become one dimensional with no conceivable Plan B. It was always the worry, and we’ve now seen the failings when it doesn’t work.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh, too critical and possibly narrow minded but there’s always the possibility that Michail gets injured or suspended, then what? What’s the alternative? Do we have it in us to be a ferocious, devastating counter attacking team? Would Bowen or Kudus step up to the plate?

Does Mubama actually get a chance as with a youth player, the opposition won’t know as much about him? There’s almost endless questions and possibilities but would they work? I’ll just state for the record now I’m Moyes out.

I think he’s too one dimensional, I find the football both boring and frustrating, mainly because I believe we now have a squad talented enough to play a better style, and he puts too much faith in certain players when that faith isn’t always rewarded. That said, I do respect him. I respect him for winning our first trophy in a generation.

I respect him for making better substitutions this season at more appropriate times. I respect him for getting us four wins from the first five games which were all difficult fixtures. There’s just improvements to be made and I worry that he either won’t make them, or worse, simply can’t.

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