Antonio’s Inevitable Injury: What It Means for West Ham.
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 31 October 2020 at 11:38am
Written by : Angus Waters
It’s been confirmed that Michail Antonio will spend at least the next two fixtures on the sideline. He’s scored 11 goals since Project Restart, meaning that Sebastien Haller, who presumably starts instead at Anfield on Saturday, has big shoes to fill. So, how do we adapt in-game to the replacement?
The 5-4-1 formation has proven to be effective for West Ham over the last few weeks, however it remains to be seen if Haller can slot right in, or whether David Moyes will be forced into positional changes. If the Hammers were to stick to the same formation, it’s expected that Arthur Masuaku would be heavily relied on to push up and whip balls into the box, which best matches Haller’s heading strength. Pablo Fornals may also be replaced for Said Benrahma, who has more of a ‘run-and-carry’ style to his play, giving the Frenchman optimal time to find a gap in the box during his first Premier League start this season.
If we switch to a two-striker system, Jarrad Bowen may be called upon to support Haller up top. We saw that Moyes is prepared to play Bowen as a striker last time out against Manchester City, after Michail was forced off. The other option to partner Haller is Yarmolenko, who has more experience playing as a striker, most notably for his national team. With that being said, his style of play is similar to that of Haller, and he lacks the pace we need. Either way, two up top would see us lose a midfielder, as Moyes appears insistent on playing with five at the back. Rice and Soucek’s positions are secured, which means it can be expected that the third midfielder would be either Pablo Fornals or Said Benrahma, meaning we maintain an attacking threat in the middle of the pitch. It remains to be seen which one of the two will start, but it might be helpful to bring Benrahma in at the same time as Haller, who could do with a fresh face feeding him balls. That being said, Moyes’ comments in press conferences over the last fortnight seem to indicate that he won’t rush to include West Ham’s new signing.
To briefly touch on transfers, the headache that Moyes now faces reemphasises that we need to buy another striker in January. West Ham could potentially go back in for Bournemouth’s Josh King, who nearly ended up at Manchester United towards the end of the window. King is well and truly the out-and-out striker we need, and his pace is an attribute we will lack without Antonio. While it seems Deadline Day was not too long ago, it’s actually only nine weeks until clubs are back making deals, so Moyes and his staff will definitely be keeping an eye on King.