Michail Antonio has caused a change in West Ham’s thinking, sources have confirmed to Football FanCast.
The Irons were looking to recruit a first-choice striker this summer, a player capable of partnering Marko Arnautovic up front.
But sources have told FFC that Antonio’s recent form could lead to Manuel Pellegrini testing the Englishman out alongside the Austrian instead.
Indeed, he has scored two goals and laid on two assists in his last four games, having been given a regular run in the team by the former Manchester City boss.
Antonio has struggled to nail down a regular starting place this season and has been deployed in a number of different positions; he played as a right-back in the 3-1 win over Cardiff in December, was then left out against Crystal Palace and played as a centre-forward the following matchday versus Fulham.
Now, however, it appears he is being trusted further forward and it is about time.
Per WhoScored, he has made a total of 33 appearances this term and has completed 1.8 dribbles per game. This is a player who belongs in the final third, taking his man on and looking to unlock defences.
It is to his immense credit that his form is being looked on as it is; FFC understands that West Ham remain interested in buying a forward player, with Aleksandar Mitrovic of Fulham and Celta Vigo’s Maxi Gomez both targets, but there is now no need to rush their pursuit.
Pellegrini has the keys to unlocking Antonio’s potential.
He has long been a speed demon, capable of blistering pace, and he has allied to that a technical proficiency that has seen him create more chances and score more goals.
If he is to thrive at the Hammers, he needs to be played in a specific position for the duration of the campaign; up front makes sense.
He is the perfect counterpoint to Arnautovic, who is strong but lacks the pace required to burst beyond defences.
With the likes of Lucas Perez, Javier Hernandez and Andy Carroll all set to leave the club, there is a space opening up.
Antonio has the chance to grab it with both hands and ensure that, if a striker is signed this summer, they start their Hammers career on the bench.