West Ham could be without Marko Arnautovic for the next few games as the speculation surrounding his future drags on, but Manuel Pellegrini must learn from his mistakes at Bournemouth and switch his stand-in striker.
Arnautovic was not included in the West Ham squad to face Bournemouth amid interest in his services from a Chinese club – as reported by BBC Sport – although London Evening Standard claim he could yet stay in East London.
With the controversy surrounding the talisman’s future looming large, Pellegrini chose Andy Carroll to lead the line at Bournemouth, and the England international missed an absolute sitter to cap off a truly woeful performance.
If Pellegrini and the club are insistent on keeping Arnautovic away from the pitch during this period of uncertainty, then the boss simply must forget about Carroll and hand Michail Antonio the nod up front instead.
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Antonio is not a natural striker, but the 28 year-old has played up front briefly for Pellegrini and Slaven Bilic before. In total, he’s featured as a centre-forward 20 times for the Hammers, according to Transfermarkt.
His pace, physicality and tireless movement in behind will run defenders ragged, allowing more space for the likes of Samir Nasri and Felipe Anderson to exploit.
Antonio has scored three times and added four assists in all competitions this season, per Transfermarkt. He is faster and less wasteful than Carroll, better at holding the ball up and bringing others into play than Javier Hernandez, and let’s not even get started on Lucas Perez.
Of course, moving Antonio up front would open up a space on the right wing, which could equate to good news for Robert Snodgrass.
The Scottish international put in three consecutive man of the match performances before Christmas, as per Whoscored’s ratings, and his only reward has been a move to the bench – seemingly slumping behind Nasri in the pecking order.
With Anderson and Nasri providing the creativity and flair elsewhere, Snodgrass’ work rate, defensive help and excellent crossing could bring the perfect balance to that right hand side, allowing Pablo Zabaleta to bomb forward on the overlap.
So, West Ham fans, would you stick Antonio up front until the striker issue is resolved? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…