Before the season
Taking on the mantle of West Ham United’s No9 shirt ahead of the 2021/22 season, Michail Antonio’s unique blend of technical and athletic qualities saw the converted centre-forward excel in the position in both 2019/20 and 2020/21.
The charismatic frontman had hit double figures in terms of Premier League goals in both seasons, finishing the former with a run of eight goals in his final seven matches, before firing the Irons into sixth place and the UEFA Europa League a year later with match-winning strikes against the likes of Leicester City, Burnley, West Bromwich Albion and Tottenham Hotspur.
How did 2021/22 go?
In terms of celebrations, superbly – because Antonio’s 2021/22 season gave plenty of cause for them.
Having scored three times in pre-season, the new No9 hit the ground running, being named Premier League Player of the Month for the second time after a spectacular August in which he both scored and assisted in our first three matches of the season – including a record-setting brace against Leicester City, which we’ll come onto a little later…
Seven goal contributions in three games is quite some form and the highlights only kept coming for the forward, who made his international debut for Jamaica in a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Panama soon after, before netting the first effort of our UEFA Europa League campaign – against Dinamo Zagreb in a 2-0 away win – and scoring late winners against Leeds United and Tottenham Hotspur, the third match-winning goal against our London rivals of his career.
And while those goalscoring numbers did slightly let up in the Spring, Antonio continued to prove a creative force up front, his endless ebullience, hard work and quality on the ball creating important goals such Tomáš Souček’s opener in March’s historic 2-0 win over Sevilla at London Stadium.
The result is now three consecutive seasons with double figures in front of goal for the Hammers’ undoubted history-maker.
Antonio tends to write plentiful headlines on the pitch every season, but there’s only one place to start in 2021/22: that brilliant brace in the 4-1 win over Leicester City back in August, on the night supporters returned to London Stadium following the lifting of restrictions.
The forward had already laid on Saïd Benrahma’s opening goal inside the first half but, with the Foxes threatening to get back into the game, the latter stages of the second period were all about one man.
Amidst a carnival atmosphere in east London, the forward held off a challenge, turned and smashed in a powerful shot past Kasper Schmeichel on 80 minutes, becoming West Ham United’s all-time top Premier League goalscorer in the process.
His celebration was equally as memorable as the goal itself, running to the sidelines to hoist aloft a cardboard cut-out of himself – ‘Dirty Dancing’ style – as he marked surpassing Paolo Di Canio and moving onto 48 top-flight goals.
Moments later, and it was 49, the forward in unstoppable form as he slid a close-range finish past the goalkeeper and sent the fans into delirious choruses of his name.
With numerous further strikes since then, Antonio sits some way aloft of that tree now, with 56 Premier League goals – and another slice of Club history – to his name.
Ever the history-maker, Antonio became the scorer of West Ham United’s first goal in European football proper (not including qualification rounds or the Intertoto Cup) in over 40 years this season, when he opened the scoring after 21 minutes of September’s 2-0 win away at Dinamo Zagreb.
Antonio also scored his first-ever Premier League goal from outside the penalty area on the final day of the season against Brighton & Hove Albion - his 444th goal attempt!
Season by Numbers
Appearances: 47 (36 Premier League, 9 UEFA Europa League, 2 FA Cup)
Minutes Played: 3,926
Goals: 13 (10 Premier League, 2 UEFA Europa League, 1 FA Cup)
Assists: 11 (8 Premier League, 2 UEFA Europa League, 1 FA Cup)
Next up in 2022/23?
Having enjoyed his best-ever season in terms of minutes on the pitch for West Ham United – as well as his most productive campaign to date in terms of 24 goal contributions, and double figures in both goals and assists – Antonio’s evolution into a unique, potent and creative No9 continues at pace.
The forward will rest up this summer before attacking the new campaign with typical fervour and, if he manages to do what he has done in the last two seasons – carry a strong finish to a term, this time with three goal contributions in his last three games, into the next one – he’ll be sure to start 2022/23 equally rapidly.