All Mic-‘HAIL’ Antonio
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 22 July 2020 at 5:39pm
Written by: Neil Shaw-Smith
‘Twas a cold, dark 2019 Christmas day when Antonio, dressed as a snowman, climbed out of his crashed Lamborghini to assess the damage he’d done. Only one goal for the season, not even in the squad for over two months and struggling for fitness, some fans were happy to sell him in the January transfer window. It didn’t seem like things were going to improve anytime soon and his West Ham glory days were behind him.
Fast-forward to 11 July 2020: a first hat trick, more goals for West Ham in one match since 1981 and a perfect 10 rates him as the best form of anyone in Europe.
Is there any player more valuable to a team right now than Michail Antonio?
Sit down Salah, Sterling, and all. No player has scored more Premier League goals since the restart (including 6 goals in 11 days), how is he now even outscoring Messi?
Being a focal point of an attack is not easy, just ask Haller. It seems as though Moyes has made things very simple for him these days. “Stay in the box more” was Michail’s response when asked if the manager had given him any pointers.
Credit has to be given to Moyes for not seeing Antonio as just a ‘swiss army knife’ player that previously played full back, wing back, both flanks and now prolific striker. Is Arnautovic looking on with jealousy from his COVID-19 lockdown wondering what could have been?
More than just goals, it’s important to remember what Antonio’s personality bring to the team and the squad, his industriousness and chasing down of lost causes galvanises and energises the team. His infectious personality quick to add a laugh or pressure-relieving joke to proceedings (see the ridiculous celebrations), which is so important to a changing room.
This new role sits so comfortably on his shoulders, it seems ever since he challenged Sessegnon to a virtual match on FIFA20 in March he’s knuckled down, fixed what was struggling before and most importantly he is enjoying his football.
The addition of the Bowen arrow and dependable Soucek have definitely helped in support, they know they can rely on Antonio’s hold-up play. His strength to fend off challenges and lay it off to continue an attack cannot be under appreciated. Also their energy means Michail has had to do less running, this could help prevent him from being on the injury list so frequently.
Managers are struggling on how to deal with his strength and unpredictability. When he is running onto a long ball, excited fans have no idea what he’s going to do, the defender has no idea, and probably not even Antonio knows. It’s instinct, and everything is just clicking right now by not overthinking.
What was starting to look like a potentially a tricky trudge of a relegation battle has blossomed into optimism for next season.
The smiling assassin has put a smile on West Ham fans’ faces.
There’snowman in form like Antonio right now.