The Antonio Enigma
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 1 May 2019 at 8:00pm
Written by: @samizgould
Michail Antonio is an absolute match winner, as he proved in the greatest possible way at Spurs. While this made us the happiest of Hammers, more so than we’ve been all season, it’s been rumoured that he might not be in Claret and Blue after the summer – so why on earth would we sell a player who can win us games?
As a man he is exactly want you want in your dressing room. Happy, relaxed and committed to give everything to the club and a straight talker who doesn’t get caught up in hype. His work with teens using football to connect them back to their studies through his own academy shows the sort of individual West Ham have been fortunate to have at Chadwell Heath.
We love to watch him fly up the sideline burst past defenders with sheer power and turn the opposition around. This is Michail at his best. There is no doubting the trouble that Antonio causes defences with his unique combination of strength and pace he is a mountain for full backs to handle. However, he’s not the technical winger that Pellegrini needs as part of his attacking system.
He has improved under our manager this season (as he knew he would have to with extra competition for a place with the return of Robert Snodgrass and signing of Andriy Yarmolenko), but for every moment of excitement he creates with his busting runs and pushing past defenders there are an equal amount of frustrating moments from poor passes, errant crosses and shots at goal that wouldn’t hit three sets of posts. This is why a possible sale starts to become clear.
Antonio is not a winger; he simply doesn’t have the core skills to be one. He isn’t a great crosser of the ball with only a staggering 11% of his crosses reaching their target (Snodgrass has three times the success rate at crosses). He’s not a great passer; with 67.9% pass accuracy and a shot accuracy of 33% he’s not quite as proficient at what you need from a first team winger. He gets into great positions, but when he is in those positions he simply doesn’t take advantage of them anywhere near enough. When you add to the mix that he has been dispossessed more than any other player at the club this season (54 times) you start to see why a manager who prides ball control and possession as vital to a successful team, might start to look at his right-wing options.
Michail Antonio is essentially a wide target man who if he was playing at a club offering more direct football may be able to get more from him than we will as we continue to move to a more possession-based system. He is now 29 and holds good value in the market mostly due to his swashbuckling ways, but they will reduce as he passes 30. Due to our limited transfer budget, if the club was offered the 15-20 million pounds they value him at, we could see him moved on and a young technical player found to replace him (even though doing so would put our Home-Grown quota under pressure as we currently have only 7 home grown players over 21.)
No matter what happens, his commitment to West Ham will never be questioned and we will miss the incredible enthusiasm he brings to the game if his time at West Ham does end.