The stuntman, the priest and the potato peeler! Published 09/04/18 on Hammers Chat
When the players took to the field on Sunday against Chelsea, there would be some sections of the West Ham travelling support that would only wish for a fit and rampaging Michail Antonio if that were even possible. When he succumbed to another hamstring injury early on in the Southampton game, it soon became evident that he would be out for the season and possibly this would usher in a closure to his West Ham career. Although even in those early moments of the game, he showed promise to deliver and a desire to charge at the opposition defence that would make them reconsider any confident stances.
I have been one of his fiercest critics over the last couple of years…mainly due to lacklustre performances or his clumsy attempts at bullying his way forward into the opposition half. However, he has been incorrectly managed at the same time and his body has never had the opportunity to fully recover before being called back into action by a desperate manager in Moyes.
I would remember the player that flourished alongside Payet, as many other players did…that would score goals and would tempt England call ups. However that player has all but disappeared in the most part, although he has the ability to still score goals…but is that enough for the team game. Many would say yes…certainly so, but others would look to the future of West Ham and would relegate Antonio to either a squad back fill player or a comfortable Championship stalwart.
So where does this leave Antonio and what might become of him during the summer? Well, for now all he can do is work on his recovery and be primed and ready to go for pre season training. However the medical team at West Ham need to address his physique as this may also be a contributing factor to his repetitive injuries too.
I would not be so crass as to simply claim he should go on a diet, but one has to look at cause and effect, the lifestyle habits and his training regimes to see if anything can be done to improve him physically and make him healthier than he is…after all…a fit and healthy Antonio can still be a worthwhile asset to have within the ranks, whereas a faltering, partially fit and injury prone player is a depreciating asset that needs to be offloaded.
For the last couple of seasons he has been the fall guy for many of the problems within the team and the woeful performances. Both Moyes and Bilic have tired to employ him as a utility player but rarely playing him in a position in which he favours. Antonio is not a defender but an attack minded fellow who has seen his preferred positions being occupied by new debutantes that would have greater success than he.
Both physically and psychologically Antonio has not been at the races for a while now…and perhaps his mistake at Crystal Palace early in the season had more of an impact on him than many would care to realise. It’s no fun being the school dunce…even if only for a day, but that is what he was and ultimately it cost the team two points. The result on that day might have been a turnaround moment in the season but it was to become the precursor to a less than salubrious campaign.
However, for all of his failings and when I thought his career was calling for the last rites, I would also consider him to be an asset if only he were played in the right position and within a formation that would suit his play. Many would begin to think that he began to rest upon his laurels as soon as he negotiated a more profitable contract, but his body and confidence has taken a severe beating from blow after blow. Whilst fans may berate him for his performances, they would also be urging him on to recapture earlier glories too.
Perhaps this is what most fans are waiting for as well as hoping…can he recover to be the force he once was? Should Moyes or whoever is the new manager, think of utilising Antonio for next season and fully explore his uses to the team but also to develop him as an individual too? Only time will tell, but unless he can be that player that we all need him to be, then the future at West Ham does not look rosy!
As with all of the players, there are so many uncertainties at the moment. Who will stay, who will leave, which players will be pushed out and which will be dragged in kicking and screaming? Until the season is secure or relegation is confirmed, then we can only speculate, however for Antonio, he cannot afford to have another season such as this one. This is the pressure that falls upon the players in the modern game, they must perform on a regular basis over the season…otherwise their positions within the team and club will always be at risk.
I would rather see Antonio fit and in the starting eleven than relegated to a bit part player that may see the light of day in a cup match replay or be a bench warmer for the whole season. He needs to be front of house if he is allowed to perform at his best…which is always a threat to any opposition defence, and not stuck in the back room…hidden from prying eyes and slowly dying from monotonous disciplines.
He has been the bull in the china shop, has broken many dishes and the goodwills of many fans. He has been the stuntman that failed to land his jumps and broke his spirits and bruised more than just his ego. He hit rock bottom with many performances…queuing the priest to hear his confession…but he cannot be the potato peeler in next season’s adventure. He needs to be fit, standing proud in the starting line up and ready to roll…if not for West Ham, then for his own benefit he needs to be sold!