Michail Antonio has been a star for West Ham the last two seasons. Antonio has been forced to play out of position with the ongoing striker crisis, so he has had a bit less of an impact lately, but the would-be England international is still the gifted athlete we know and love all the same. From playing at right-back for God knows why, to his natural position as a winger/midfielder, and then to being out of position once again as a second striker to Andy Carroll, we’ve seen just how adaptable our man is.
On Saturday against Leicester, Antonio was injured for the first time in recent memory, effectively ending his chance to play for England during the upcoming international break. It’s estimated that Antonio will be out the next 3-4 weeks with a hamstring injury, but because “he’s a superb athlete,” the owners may expect him to be back sooner even than that. Three or four weeks is just a drop of water in the ocean compared to Pedro Obiang, who’s been ruled out for the rest of the season
So what does the club do in the wake of a Michail Antonio injury? Luckily for fans, the board made a lot of bad decisions in the transfer windows and loaded this club up with wingers! West Ham have got Snodgrass, Antonio, Ayew, and Feghouli all at the winger spot. With Antonio injured, on top of all the other ones, we will probably see young Edimilson Fernandes get some playing time where Obiang was, at CM, and see Kouyaté stay in his natural position at CDM, or move to center-back with the injury of Winston Reid. Ayew will likely remain at right wing, and Lanzini will keep his position at CAM, while Snodgrass will likely start back at left wing.
Enner Valencia and now Reece Oxford have both pointed out West Ham's lack of intensity in training.— West Ham Central (@WestHam_Central) March 14, 2017
With three injuries occurring on Saturday, and with Reece Oxford coming out saying he was surprised at the intensity of the training at Reading, supporters have started to raise questions about whether Slaven Bilic needs to start making some changes and making sure his players are fit for matches.
Whether it’s Slaven’s training regimen or if it’s just that these footballers can’t get their heads in the game remains unknown. We do know that Slaven certainly has an impact on both of those things. What we can note for now is that the Croatian has defended his team training tactics more than once the last couple of weeks, and as he’s been one of the few transparent people involved with West Ham, we’ve got to take the man’s word for it, don’t we? There have been murmurs as well—due to Bilic’s war of words with Reading manager Jaap Stam—that the Hammers could recall Reece Oxford or Reece Burke from loan to play center-back for the first team, and that may just be one of the few positives of this wave of recent injuries.
Bilic: "I’m not happy that we have to go behind to show what we're about, but the training is really, really good and the intensity is high" pic.twitter.com/8dsxKwzP1K— West Ham Fanzone (@WHFanzone) March 20, 2017
Whatever the cause of West Ham’s most recent injury crisis, we know that Slaven Bilic—alone—isn’t at fault. In fact, he’s been one of the few bright spots for West Ham this season. Antonio’s injury and subsequent pulling out of the England squad is unfortunate, but we can’t jump to conclusions and try to blame someone for it. It’s quite possible that West Ham and its players are just a bit unlucky. Fortune’s always hiding, indeed.