This is an important campaign for West Ham United, with a move to the Olympic Stadium next season a landmark in the London club’s history.
Ahead of the significant stadium move, a successful and progressive 2015-16 was required to give the club’s fans something to be optimistic about and to say goodbye to the long-serving Upton Park.
The appointment of Slaven Bilic was followed by an aggressive summer recruitment policy, with a host of new faces heading to the Hammers.
Of the new men to join the London club, the likes of Dimitri Payet and Manual Lanzini have stood out, while Victor Moses and others have also played their part so far.
[ffc-gal cat=”west-ham” no=”5″]
With West Ham sitting sixth and only four points off the top four after 20 games, few would disagree that it has been a successful campaign to date, with memorable away wins at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City making it all the sweeter.
One of the key features of this success has been strength in depth after the summer signings, which has been put to the test of late.
Bilic has bemoaned his situation as a crux of key men have been sent to the treatment table, with the Hammers down to their bare bones over the manic festive season fixture schedule – especially in attack.
This has given another summer signing that had been somewhat forgotten about a chance to play and proved that he can be an influential member of the team both for the rest of the current campaign and for seasons to come.
Michail Antonio joined West Ham from Nottingham Forest after proving himself as a dangerous attacking force in the Championship over a solitary campaign with the City Ground outfit.
Something of a journeyman before his move to the Midlands outfit, the 25-year-old lived up to his potential at Forest and looks capable of continuing this in the Premier League.
A winger with sparkling pace and footwork, Antonio’s eye for goal stood out during his time in Nottingham, with the versatile attacker striking 14 times in the 2014-15 campaign. This was backed up by 12 assists, with Antonio’s drive and desire too much for most opposition full-backs to handle.
Given the competition for places in wide areas at West Ham, the star will find it tough to play week-in, week-out; but over recent weeks he has shown that he can be an important player for Bilic’s men.
During five starts and a number of substitute appearances for West Ham in quick succession, Antonio has scored a number of important goals and added an extra dimension to the team’s attacking play.
The club are clearly eager to play with pace on at least one flank, with the former Forest man offering this in abundance with Moses not available.
It will be interesting to see just what line-up Bilic opts for when some of his missing men return to availability, but so far Antonio has taken his opportunity to play with two hands.