Antonio’s blessing in disguise!

Author: . Published: at 11:56am

Written by @lu_thirty_1

I’m excited to write my first article and thought it’s fitting to talk about Michail Antonio, following his latest and very frustrating setback, especially during a World Cup year*.

I wanted to discuss what Antonio’s meant to our club, whether we’ve put him in the best situations possible to succeed and what he means to us going forward.

I’ll be honest with you, when we first signed him; I had no clue who he was. After some digging and watching some videos, I found out that he was still a fairly young and developing English winger with a lot of pace and power but quite a big lack in technical ability, in my opinion. The latter is what confused me the most. I wasn’t sure why we signed him and why he signed for us, given the attacking options we already had. I wasn’t convinced that he’d play for us regularly. I also wasn’t sure what position was his best one which is what I still think that to this day, to some extent.

But, as we all know football has a funny way of working and before we knew it, as a result of a few injuries to other players, we had an emerging star on our hands. I don’t have long enough to go into detail about all of Antonio’s highlights but his performance against Tottenham springs to mind as well as that come-back-win against Everton. What I admired about Antonio is that he worked, worked and worked some more until the doors cracked open. When I watched him play, the famous quote; ‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard’ came to mind every single time.

I also loved the fact that he tried to do a job no matter what the circumstance. We all remember Slaven’s right-back nonsense. To me that was just a losing situation from the beginning and I remember the whole of our fan base and Antonio himself were left feeling frustrated.

Then, we all know what happened next with a certain Frenchman but let’s not give him our time of day by talking about him and stroking his ego. Again, though, this was another opportunity for Antonio to step up to the plate, which I thought he did. He became one of our most important players which is definitely not what I imagined when he first signed.

Deservedly, at the end of last season, he signed his contract extension. I know a lot of people have differing opinions on this but in my eyes, he deserved every penny. I find it hard to accept this notion of ‘he signed his deal and now he doesn’t care anymore’ that some of our fans stick by. I know he cares for this club. Contract or no contract, this man has given everything he could for his shirt. Playing through injury, doing everything he can to recover quickly, running himself to the ground and as we all saw on Saturday, leaving the field in tears.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think he’s had a great season and he’s certainly had a few moments we’d rather forget, *cough cough* Crystal Palace away. But, I do know that we’re still yet to see a full season from him where he’s played to his strengths and fully fit. I do think some of the criticism he’s received has been quite harsh given everything that’s happened in his time with us so far.

I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors but it seems that  he club probably rushed him back too early when he’s been hurt on a occasions, due to our lack of squad depth. That cup game against Arsenal was an idiotic move by all involved.  This latest injury, in my opinion, is also a result of poor player management from our medical staff and David Moyes himself. Maybe even Antonio himself to be honest, given how much drive he has to want to play every game. I reckon I wouldn’t be far off by saying that he wanted to play as soon as possible even if he wasn’t 100% good to go.

However, I think Antonio’s latest setback is a blessing in disguise for himself and our club. Missing the rest of the season and going through a proper pre-season is probably the best thing that could happen for Antonio and is something that is long overdue. With a player of his strength and power, you often wonder how long his body can hold out for before needing a serious break. It looks like we all got that answer on Saturday.

I really hope Antonio can fully recover from his injury and play at a 100% for us because when he’s firing on all cylinders, it’s a scary site for any opposition. He will be one of our best players next year and a partnership of him, Arnautovic and Lanzini is a very deadly one indeed.

At the end of the day, Antonio has not had a smooth ride at West Ham as the road has always been bumpy with injuries, playing out of position and a lot of frustration. The one thing I do know is that Antonio will always give his all for the shirt and I’m hoping that next year he shows us his true qualities.

*I’m not saying he would have made the squad, but I think he had a chance if the latest England squad is anything to go by.

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