West Ham United head into Sunday’s Premier League game against Liverpool on the back of six straight wins to start 2021.
Confidence within the squad is rightly high but the visit of the reigning champions to London Stadium is certainly the toughest task of the calendar year thus far.
During the Irons' six-game winning streak they’ve found the net twelve times – with striker Michail Antonio delivering two of those.
The 30-year-old, who hasn’t been back from injury long, is often at the centre of everything David Moyes side does going forward, and the experienced striker is savouring every moment of this successful season so far.
“Being around the team is unbelievable at the moment to be fair,” he said. “We’ve got a really good chemistry going and the boys are buzzing.
“The season didn’t start well with the two losses but from that we’ve gone on and shown the togetherness and the quality that we have.”
That togetherness and quality that was undeniable at Selhurst Park in midweek as the Hammers swept aside Crystal Palace 3-2 in their latest league win.
I’m still disappointed about the game the other day, I had lots of opportunities but didn’t quite manage to score, but that’s part and parcel of being a footballer. You have those days!
For all his endeavours and his integral role in the victory, the ball unusually just wouldn’t go in the net for Antonio in SE25. With the post and Vicente Guaita the main antagonists on more than one occasion.
“I’m still disappointed about the game the other day,” he smiled. “I had lots of opportunities but didn’t quite manage to score, but that’s part and parcel of being a footballer. You have those days!"
One man who didn’t struggle to get on the scoresheet in south London was Tomáš Souček. The Czech midfielder fired in a first half double to put the Irons back in control after going behind early on.
Antonio took the time to praise the 25-year-olds recent performances, on the week of Souček’s first anniversary in Claret and Blue.
“Tomáš (Souček) is a machine, that’s the only way that I can describe him, he’s a machine. He constantly keeps going, he’s up and down the field and as soon as the ball goes in the air into the box, he eats it up.”
It’s one of those things as well that doesn’t feel like work. It’s so fun because it’s a virtual game that works on your touch, passing and finishing.
Like all of us, Antonio has regularly found himself confined to the comforts of his own home over the last ten months. West Ham’s No30 has invested in some state-of-the-art virtual reality software to keep him active away from the training ground.
“I’ve got Rezzil at my house, and in these times where you can’t go out and physically kick a ball. I’m still able to stay active in the home and don’t have to go out. I can kick a ball around, work on my touch, my technique and also get a bit of a sweat on as well.
“It’s one of those things as well that doesn’t feel like work. It’s so fun because it’s a virtual game that works on your touch, passing and finishing.”
With 13 goals to his name since the Premier League emerged for Project Restart, you could put together a strong argument that Antonio has become one of the most dynamic forwards in the Premier league. However, the striker prefers to attribute his successes to his knack of always being in the right place at the right time.
“I don’t think that being in the box is all about being a prolific finisher. I think it’s more about having a reaction, reacting quicker than opposition defenders and that’s what I think I have.”
Coming up against Liverpool on Sunday will bring back plenty of fond memories for Antonio, who has found the net against the Reds five times during the course of his career.
The forward believes, on current form, this could be the best time to come up against Jurgen Klopp’s men.
“At the moment Liverpool aren’t in their best spell, and it might be a good time to be playing them. So, we’re going to go into the game really up for it, make sure we look at them beforehand against Tottenham and go from there.”
“Individually, I’ll approach the game the same as I approach any game. I’m going to do the same thing because I believe in myself, believe in my ability and on my day, I believe I’m very difficult to play against.”