Despite West Ham beating Sheffield United 3-0 on Monday night, David Moyes should question Jarrod Bowen’s potential role at striker after failing to fill Michail Antonio’s boots.
Moyes opted to omit Antonio from his matchday plans following concerns over the striker’s fitness, which saw him miss last Tuesday’s FA Cup defeat to Manchester United.
There had been hope in east London that Antonio would be passed fit to face the Blades after nine days’ rest, but failed to make the grade and missed his first Premier League fixture since December 27 as a result.
Moyes had previously fielded Bowen at striker this season, with minutes in the centre against Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion, though on each occasion lined up beside either Antonio or Sebastien Haller.
That choice was not available to the West Ham boss on Monday night after selling Haller to AFC Ajax last month, while also being without Antonio’s FA Cup stand-in Andriy Yarmolenko after the Ukraine forward sustained knee ligament damage at Old Trafford.
Those circumstances left Bowen as the Hammer’s lone option to face Sheffield United, but he could only serve up a display that would prove Moyes was wrong to choose against signing a striker to replace Haller during the winter transfer market.
Admittedly, playing at striker is an unfamiliar position for Bowen, who has made 20 of his 26 appearances across all competitions this season on the right-wing, but the £96k-per-week attacker has prior experience in the role and scored plenty for Hull City in the past.
In 12 games played centrally for the Tigers, the 24-year-old struck seven goals and provided four assists, and has been in strong form this term with only Tomas Soucek (8) finding the back of the net more often for West Ham than Bowen (5) has in Premier League games.
Bowen rarely looked likely to add to his tally on Monday night, though, having only attempted a single shot on Aaron Ramsdale’s net that was blocked, per WhoScored.
Despite his pace and willingness to run allowing the Leominster-born forward to offer an outlet in attack, the £25.2m-rated winger further struggled to offer any real threat in the final third that he would not have been expected to bring to the side in his natural wide role – in fact he managed just 16 successful passes on the night, which was the lowest of any outfield player for the Hammers, and a real indication that he struggled to get involved in the game.
And with Bowen not being off the same build as an Antonio who is capable of holding play up, ultimately failed to fill the boots of the man he was tasked with replacing even if West Ham were able to claim a commanding victory.
Moyes will now have to hope that Antonio can be passed fit for Sunday’s London derby with Tottenham Hotspur, or need to rely on others stepping up again and making good use of the space that Bowen’s runs can create.
Bowen’s largely anonymous display against the Blades once again raises serious question marks over Moyes’ decision not to sign a new striker.