Monday 20 Jul
Updated Monday 20 Jul 16:48
Opinion

How free-scoring West Ham United’s charge is being led by in-form Michail Antonio

Michail Antonio celebrates scoring against Watford

 

With 12 goals scored in their previous five matches, it is clear West Ham United have become a potent attacking force in recent weeks.

But a deeper delve into the numbers shows the Hammers have been carrying a greater attacking threat for a lot longer.

Since David Moyes took charge in late December, West Ham have scored 26 goals in 17 Premier League matches – an average of 1.53 goals per game.

Prior to that, the Irons had netted just 21 goals in their opening 19 top-flight matches at an average of 1.11 goals per game.

Michail will always make an impact because he works so hard, and his energy, pace and power make him such a nuisance for defenders

Tony Cottee

Indeed, West Ham’s 26-goal haul means they are the Premier League’s sixth-highest scorers since New Year’s Day, when Moyes announced his return with a 4-0 win over AFC Bournemouth at London Stadium. Only champions Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea have scored more Premier League goals in 2020.

The Hammers have been particularly prolific over the last five rounds of matches, with the two Manchester clubs, City with 16 and United with 15, scoring more than the 12 goals Moyes’ men have netted in that time.

That goalscoring form has been put to good use, too, with West Ham collecting ten points to pull clear of the bottom three.

Over the same five-game span, the Hammers ranked third in the Premier League form table, again behind only the two Manchester clubs.

 

Jarrod Bowen congratulates Michail Antonio on scoring against Chelsea

 

Individually, nobody has scored more goals since the restart than West Ham’s Michail Antonio, who has scored seven goals in seven appearances, with all of them coming in the last five matches.

After scoring in the 3-1 home win over Southampton just before the COVID-19 lockdown, the No30 has continued to net important goals, with six of the seven coming in victories and the other in the 2-2 draw at Newcastle United. Antonio also provided the assist for Andriy Yarmolenko’s last-minute winner against Chelsea.

One man who has been hugely impressed with Antonio’s all-round centre forward play is West Ham legend Tony Cottee, who himself scored 146 times in Claret and Blue. 

“I think we have always known that Michail is an instinctive finisher – his record proves that – but in the past there has perhaps been a question over whether he can play regularly as an out-and-out centre forward, rather than in a wide position,” Cottee observed.

“What I think we have seen in recent weeks is that, given a run of games in that role, he has settled into it and is capable of fine-tuning the elements of centre-forward play that are required when you are leading the line on your own.

“Michail will always make an impact because he works so hard, and his energy, pace and power make him such a nuisance for defenders, but in each game so far, his hold-up play, unselfish runs to drag opponents out of position, and link-up with the midfield has improved – and that has been a key reason behind the fact that we have scored 12 goals in the last five games.”

 

Tomas Soucek and Jarrod Bowen

 

While Antonio has scored the majority of the goals, West Ham’s increased attacking output has been the result of a collective effort, though.

Tomáš Souček has scored three goals since the restart, helping the Hammers gain seven points from wins over Chelsea and Watford and a draw at Newcastle, with fellow January signing Jarrod Bowen assisting all three, plus Antonio’s close-range finish against the Blues.

With two games remaining, West Ham have the chance to hit the 50-goal mark in the Premier League for just the third time in the last 15 years.

Three more goals are needed to reach that milestone and, the way the Hammers are attacking at present, there is a very good chance they will do just that.

 

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