When we forked out £7 million for Michail Antonio at the end of the summer transfer window, it was definitely a gamble. Antonio had a decent couple of seasons at Sheffield Wednesday and a great season at Nottingham Forest, winning their Player of the Season award, but £7 million is a high price for a player untested at a top level. The fact that he is English would probably have doubled the fee, and considering that there is real value abroad (Payet, Obiang) it was without doubt a risk to bring Antonio in for that fee.
Antonio didn’t really get much of a chance until injuries forced Bilic’s hand in December. Antonio made a couple of substitute appearances in the opening months of the season, and West Ham fans were quick to question the signing. Why have we paid all this money for him to not play him? What is he doing wrong in training to not get a chance? Was this a a real mistake by the club? But once he featured in the 2-1 win over Southampton, he has been a regular in the team and rightly so.
The 25 year old quickly brought energy and flair into the West Ham team and his man of the match performance against Southampton was soon followed by several great performances in January.
The former Nottingham Forest man appears to have everything we could want in a winger. He has genuine pace, can beat a man, never seems to run out of energy and works so hard for the team. Against Liverpool in the FA Cup, he was a contender for man of the match again, and was even effective when he dropped into right back. He never shirks his defensive responsibilities and is rightfully becoming one of the first names on Slaven Bilic’s team sheet. Another key factor about Antonio, is that he can really finish. A goalscoring winger is rare, and with Antonio’s finishes for West Ham this season, in addition to his goals at Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest it looks like we’ve got ourselves quite a finisher. We can’t always rely on the strikers to bring goals, and having another goalscorer in the team will be crucial in our cup run and battle for Europe in the league.
So is Michail Antonio actually a bargain at £7 million?
If he continues as he has been, then it would be hard to argue against it. He is beginning to look like the real deal, and has everything needed to succeed in the Premier League. Strong as an ox, quick, can head the ball and works hard. If he puts in a few more performances like he did against Liverpool, then soon enough it won’t just be West Ham fans that are raving about him.