Antonio’s story since the restart: West Ham’s frontman proving crucial to survival hopes


Influential in the win over Chelsea and recent draw to Newcastle, Michail Antonio is proving to be West Ham’s key man in their fight against relegation.

After an impressive first two years at West Ham, where the Englishman was named their Hammer of the Year in the 2016/17 season, Antonio’s career had somewhat stagnated.

Long ago were the days he was called up to England squads under Sam Allardyce and Gareth Southgate in that same period.

Now, with relegation fears growing rapidly for David Moyes’ men, Antonio has taken the mantel as his team’s focal point. 

In their first game back after the restart, the forward could be heard barking orders to his teammates and bemoaning the decisions of the referee, although his efforts couldn’t prevent a 2-0 loss to Wolves.

He eventually talked his way into the Anthony Taylor’s book, his frustrations at the performance of his teammates taken out on the official.

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When another 2-0 loss arrived, this time to neighbours Spurs, a fixture that Antonio scored the winner in last season, the table began to look more ominous.

Even in this fixture, in which West Ham failed to create many chances of note, Antonio’s work rate and commitment to the cause could not be questioned even by the most scrutinising Hammers’ fan.

Tottenham centre-back Eric Dier was in a battle with the 30-year-old all evening and was full of praise for the striker after the derby.

I think he’s one of the most difficult strikers to come up against in the Premier League. Maybe not for his goals but for his work ethic and the way he will press you and challenge every ball, and the way he runs in behind.”

A goal would arrive in Antonio’s next fixture in another London derby against Chelsea. After using his body to hold off a Chelsea defender, he went down somewhat spectacularly under the challenge of Antonio Rudiger. After the appeal was waved away from the referee, the Englishman picked himself back up to arrive in the box and finish Jarrod Bowen’s low-driven cross.

His celebration typified the competitive nature of the player as he nodded in the direction of the referee and seemed to mouth ‘this one counts’ in reference to an earlier typically controversial VAR decision.

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The winner exposed Antonio’s best attribute, his strength. A long, hopeless clearance by Declan Rice was collected by West Ham’s number 30, who had set himself in the perfect position to receive the ball and lay it off to Pablo Fornals.

He then received the ball back from the Spaniard on the turn and played through Andriy Yarmolenko, the Ukrainian ran through before finishing with a low effort to secure all three points for the east Londoners.

His man-of-the-match performance against Chelsea was followed up by contributing again in West Ham’s attacking play against Newcastle.

Some have doubted Antonio’s finishing in years past, but there was no mistake early on at St James’ Park after Jamaal Lascelles’ mistake, the former Nottingham Forest man rifled the ball home.

Deputising due to the absence of £40 million-man Sebastien Haller, Antonio has displayed the ability to lead the forward line for West Ham and utilise his pace and power to create opportunities for teammates.

Currently in 16th place ahead of Wednesday’s fixture against Burnley, David Moyes has been full of praise for Antonio’s impact since the restart.

“He’s got an awful lot to offer. He’s played as a wing-back, a winger and a forward. When you’ve got power and pace like he has, it often leads to injuries, and this is probably his best spell of games, complete 90 minutes, and continuous games. He’s helping us, carrying the front line, and he’s getting goals.

“He’s 30 now and he’s mature and he probably knows more about his game. He is getting chances in every game so let’s hope he keeps taking them.”

The attributes so commonly acquitted to survival in the top flight of hard work, grit and determination have never been the issue of Antonio’s game.

David Moyes and West Ham supporters will now hope he can continue finding the back of the net when Sean Dyche’s Burnley arrive at the London Stadium on Wednesday evening.

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