Throughout the last two matches, against Chelsea and Newcastle United, it appears Michail Antonio has been on almost a one-man Premier League survival mission.
Of course, that is slightly unfair on his teammates who put in a tremendous effort. Still, nobody has captured the fans’ never say die spirit quite like the Englishman, who’s contributed two goals and an assist to help the Hammers collect four precious points. As the 30-year-old heads into the final year of his contract next term, regardless of the division the Irons find themselves in, Antonio must be rewarded with an extension.
Few other players in David Moyes’ squad can boast the versatility of Antonio. So far this term he has lined up as a left-winger, lone striker or as a partner to Sebastien Haller upfront, yet he is just as comfortable on the right and when times are desperate, he can cover at right-back. His positional fluidity means that there is almost always a place the Englishman can slot in, though he has most consistently been used as a striker this term, starting there on 12 occasions.
Goals have been harder to come by than previous campaigns, notching four in the Premier League well short of his best output of nine in 2016/17. However, he has found the net the same number of times as both Lucas Moura and Adama Traore, via WhoScored, players who have not been struggling near the foot of the table.
Contributing three assists has helped mask a shy goal return, but ever the hero in times of need, Antonio slotted in alongside Haller when he was crying out for a strike partner to help him end a run of eight goalless matches.
It is in scenarios like these where Antonio thrives. He selflessly plays the supporting role better than most and when trouble brews, he is often a critical factor in bailing this side out of danger, as he proved in the two most recent matches, which have given the Irons a four-point cushion to the drop.
Antonio’s reliability has to be one of his standout features, and only Haller has scored a higher average match rating than the 30-year-old’s 7.15 in the Premier League. His mental strength and aptitude to continue fighting regardless of the Hammers’ form or league table position cannot be underestimated.
Reports suggest that West Ham can trigger an extension in Antonio’s current deal, meaning it would expire at the end of the 2022 season. While he may have recently turned 30, the Englishman has shown few signs of slowing down this term; Antonio has stated he believes he could retire at the club and his unwavering commitment is deserving of at least two more years in East London.