One of the few bright spots in the 2016/17 season for the West Ham United was the play of Michail Antonio.
The season got off to a rocky start for the winger as he was deployed at right back. Slaven’s experiment proved a failure as Antonio was consistently caught out of position. It wasn't for a lack of trying that he failed as a right back. He just isn’t a right back; his pace, determination, and size make him a much better winger.
Antonio scored nine goals and provided three assists including his mistake which provided Andy Carroll’s goal of the year.
Being deployed in multiple positions likely hampered his season a bit but he was one of the Hammers biggest producers last season.
Current team placement
When healthy Antonio will be the first choice right winger for Slaven Bilic this season. However, his recovery from injury will likely see him start the season on the bench giving Andre Ayew a chance to make good on his former club record fee.
Sofiane Feghouli, if he’s still around, will provide plenty of competition for time on the right side. If Antonio plays up to his play of last season he should easily hold his spot as a starter.
Goals for this season
His first goal this season is to get healthy and up to match fitness. There is no reason to expect that he cant do this but its important we have a healthy and fit Antonio this season. His other goals are to continue to be a terror for defenders and score double digit goals. Michail’s pace and size make him a scary player for defenders who don’t take proper position or angles. His versatility can see him occasionally come through the middle and free up space for the striker and attacking midfielder.
While he will be deployed on the right wing don’t be surprised to see Antonio playing as almost a second striker with Chicharito. While not a gifted right back he is known for tracking back which will be key if Marko Arnautovic continues his tendency to be a player that slacks on the defensive end.
I expect Antonio to continue to be a huge presence in the air and the idea of him, Arnautovic, Winston Reid, Angelo Ogbonna, Andy Carroll, and Chikehou Kouyate in the same box for corners makes me very excited.
Some criticize his lack of technical ability with the ball at his feet. While valid, with the addition of Arnautovic it will be less vital for Antonio to create chances. He will be the beneficiary of Arnautovic and Lanzini’s creativity. His aerial threat will be a good complement for Chicharito’s poaching ability.
The Hammers have built a versatile and scary attack this season. Michail Antonio will be and important part of that attack and should be in the frame for more call-ups to the England squad.