Although last night’s result was disappointing, the manner in which West Ham lost was even more difficult to take.
Chelsea bossed possession and the Hammers’ midfield did not look up to the task as they struggled to string a series of passes together. Although the entire game was difficult to watch, the most painful scenario occurred when Michail Antonio was substituted by Slaven Bilic.
The makeshift right back had just conceded a penalty and was imminently substituted as a result of his actions. Antonio was completely crestfallen when he glanced over to the bench to see his number and you can hardly blame him.
Towards the end of the last campaign and throughout preseason Michail Antonio has looked uncomfortable in his right-back slot and Hammers fans were hoping the club would either sign a right-back or promote Sam Byram to first team duties. Neither options have happened so far and it has cost Michail Antonio and West Ham dearly. The player has no confidence and this is not right considering it is something that can easily be avoided. He is still one of the best attacking players at the club but right now he is not being given the chance to play in his favoured position and this is worrying.
A lot of full-backs have made the transition to midfield but it has rarely occurred the other way, especially during a player’s prime years. Antonio Valencia is probably the only example but he did not carry the same goal threat that Antonio does. He also shows a defensive awareness that our winger simply doesn’t have.
I’ve yet to see a West Ham fan state that Antonio should be playing at right-back. It seems as if Bilic doesn’t want to drop Antonio so he chooses to play him in a position that accommodates the new signings. This shouldn’t really be happening, there are more pressing issues on the pitch than the right midfield slot and Antonio deserves to play there after last season.
He was the runner up in the Hammer of the Year award, his place on the right should be guaranteed as he has shown his ability when given the opportunity.
Slaven Bilic is clearly an excellent manager and he has transformed this club, but it can’t be long before he admits defeat in this one. He’s tried to make it work and it hasn’t paid off.
If he pushed Antonio up, the winger is the kind of player who would relish the chance to impress there again. He has conducted himself professionally whilst going through a very difficult situation and it’s about time his loyalty is rewarded because if not, we could be losing one of our best players over something that is easily avoidable.
It has been an experiment that has gone wrong. Now, for Michail Antonio’s sake, Slaven Bilic has to consider restoring him to his natural position.