David Moyes has been in football long enough to know that a striker struggling for goals is reason enough to sound the alarm.
“If you’re a centre-half or a goalkeeper, you have to keep the ball out of the net, and the centre-forwards have to put the ball in the net,” said the Scot.
‘It’s their job, so we need [Michail Antonio] do it for us too. You might not get five or six shots, you might only get one, and your conversion rate must be good.
Michail Antonio is going through a tough time in front of goal with just one goal since January 1
David Moyes has made it clear that Antonio must now stand up and deliver in the big moments
“You don’t get five one-on-ones with the goalkeeper, you might only get one a game and you have to be ready to take that one.”
And he’s right. As West Ham complete their preparations for their first European semi-final since 1976, the chances could prove to be scarce. Taking them will decide whether this fairytale race will reach the final at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium in Seville.
Much of the scoring burden falls on Michail Antonio. With the No.9 on the back of his shirt and as the focal point of Moyes’ 4-2-3-1 system, he comes with the territory.
Only the burden seems to weigh on him. Heavy.
For a player who has managed four goals and three assists in his first three league appearances this season, the Jamaica international has only managed one goal since New Year’s Day, in a defeat at the FA Cup fifth round against Southampton.
“If he had scored a few goals last Sunday you would say he was back in form, but the goals are missing,” added Moyes.
“His overall performance has improved over the last two months, at Lyon he was very good.
“We can get him to assist and score goals because he’s a focal point, but at the end of the day we’re on the business side.”
Antonio (right) was thwarted against Burnley and found goals hard to come by in 2022
That’s why a turnaround is needed ahead of Thursday night’s game against Eintracht Frankfurt. Breakthrough contributions from now will turn the narrative around its finish in an instant.
Admittedly, the Europa League has not been a happy hunting ground for the former Tooting & Mitcham player.
Antonio has just one goal – in the opener against Dynamo Zagreb – and two assists in 587 minutes of action.
For most of Antonio’s time in east London, it was injuries that marred his campaigns.
Hamstrings and muscle issues have persisted in recent seasons and yet this season fitness hasn’t been the issue, allowing him to play more in a single season for West Ham than he ever has. previously.
Released from the squad with Declan Rice and Jarrod Bowen for the weekend at Chelsea – a rare chance of rest for some of Moyes’ key men – Antonio could barely conceal his disappointment.
‘I’m not going to lie to you. That hurts me. I didn’t speak to the manager but it hurt me,’ Antonio said on the BBC’s Footballer’s Football podcast.
He managed to make up for it with 10 assists but West Ham’s No.9 needs to get up and be counted out
“When I’m in good shape, I want to play. The fact is that over the last few years, my injuries, I haven’t been able to stay in shape.
“This season I’ve stayed fit, so because I’ve stayed fit, I want to play. Whatever game is going on, I want to be on the pitch, and if I’m not on the pitch, I want to be there.
“So I was upset that I didn’t get along, but the gaffer had different plans. We have a big game on Thursday, I don’t know if I’m playing, but I hope that’s why I don’t didn’t get knocked out, to keep me in shape for that.
Antonio will almost certainly play, with Bowen behind him, but now is the time to end a crisis that has played a part in the demise of their top four prospects in recent months.
There are other reasons, namely a defensive shortage, especially at the centre-back level, and poor performances team-wide. Anyone outside of Liverpool and Man City has a certain number per season.
Antonio’s altruism also has a role to play. Matching his 10 goals with 10 assists shows his effectiveness as an enabler. Only with no recognized attackers at his disposal, Moyes needs Antonio to gain tunnel vision to fire them in the final.
‘Acknowledged striker’ is an interesting term in itself when it comes to Antonio.
Here’s a player who learned his trade with Tooting & Mitcham before moving up the ranks with Reading, Southampton, Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest, where West Ham picked him up in 2015.
Not as an attacker, it must be added. Not originally, anyway.
He arrived as a utility player but Moyes (right) nudged him into a central striking role
‘Iron Mike’, as he is known among supporters, arrived as a utilitarian man, capable on both wings and equally adept at the back.
“He can be a great right-back like Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia,” Slaven Bilic said when signing Antonio.
Fast forward to Moyes shaking up the group and after the Scot all but scrapped a long-term future at the club for Sebastian Haller – who is now thriving with Ajax and new Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag – he’s on his way. is turned to Antonio as its main man. through the middle.
“I hated it at first,” said Antonio sky sports at this moment.
‘When you got your back to play they [defenders] come across the back of you. You have to be able to take that shot, then control the ball, then find the pass.
He’s already done great for them, helping to keep them going in 2019-20 and now it’s time for him to step up and take the burden of goals on his shoulders.
Moyes was right to call on the Jamaican to stand up and be counted now more than ever.
The old cliché of a single goal to transform a striker’s form rings true and for Antonio it has to start on Thursday. If West Ham are to finish with a trophy in their hands, they need their No.9 to rise and be counted in the greatest moments of them all.
All eyes are on Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday and it’s a great opportunity for Antonio