West Ham analysis: Michail Antonio back with a bang but Jarrod Bowen finishing frustrates

Jack Rosser
·4-min read

With Michail Antonio now the sole occupant of West Ham’s senior striker department, an afternoon like this was just what David Moyes will have been dreaming of.

Following Sebastien Haller’s sale to Ajax earlier this month, the 30-year-old is currently Moyes’s only real option to lead the line. Such is his importance that the West Ham manager risked further injury by giving Antonio almost 90 minutes on a mire of a pitch at Stockport on Monday night. It appears to have worked.

There was no sign of sluggishness from the Hammers talisman as he forced himself some space at the far post and poked home the opener inside 10 minutes, his 40th Premier League goal for the club.

Haller had his merits, as he showed with a goal after seven minutes of his first start since joining Ajax, but they did not suit West Ham. Antonio transforms the side and sharpens the point at the tip of a now solid system. The forward was at his bullying best here, constantly occupying Ben Mee and James Tarkowski in the back line and opening up his legs on the break when given a chance. A shot which was so wayward Burnley were awarded a throw-in was a moment to forget but it did little to tarnish his return.

Antonio’s work in leading the line not only causes problems for those he is running at and past, but opens up opportunities for those around him too - something Haller never offered. Those chances were too often wasted today but they too will be glad to have him back.

The burden sits rather heavily on his shoulders once more, but the man who has filled many a role for West Ham over the years is happy to take the responsibility.

"As the number nine I'm expected to score goals," said Antonio afterwards. "And now I'm back I expect it."

The search for a replacement for Haller continues, and must do given the fragility of Antonio’s hamstrings. But for now there will be no urgent rush to just get a body through the door after Antonio gave Moyes everything he could have hoped for upon his return.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Sharper decisions would make Bowen lethal

One of those Antonio is now helping create chances for is Jarrod Bowen.

If Moyes could pluck another signing like the former Hull City winger from the Championship this month then it will have been a successful window.

Bowen has come on leaps and bounds since his arrival almost a year ago. The 24-year-old often delivers, as he did when sent on at Stockport by setting up the late winner for Craig Dawson, but his own return could be so much higher.

The winger had the chance, inside the last 10 minutes here, to put a rallying Burnley side to bed on the break. Antonio fed the ball right and into his path, all that was required was a sharp decisive finish. Bowen, however, dallied just a moment too long and the chance was gone.

Margins are fine in the Premier League and for all the brilliant work Bowen does in getting up to that crucial moment, it is often just a moment of hesitation that does for him. Wipe that out and he’ll pose one hell of a threat to any opposing defence.

POOL/AFP via Getty Images
POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Dawson vs Tarkowski

On another day this could have been a reminder of the one who got away for David Moyes. In this season, however, where so much is going in the right direction for the Scot, it served as proof that there was no great loss in their failure to sign James Tarkowski at the start of the season.

West Ham carried out a very public pursuit of the Burnley defender ahead of the season. Tarkowski was Moyes’s top target, but his counterpart continued to drive up the price in order to keep hold of his man and the Hammers simply did not have the funds.

"Sean Dyche did everything he could to keep Tarkowski and he was right to do so because he's a good player," said Moyes.

"We were looking for a central defender in the summertime. I respect any other manager's wishes and he fought very hard to keep his player which is great credit to him."

After losing out on Tarkowski, who could only watch as the ball sailed over his head to Antonio for the opener this afternoon, West Ham ended up landing Craig Dawson from relegated Watford on loan. It was hardly a signing to get the fans celebrating but, after a long wait to make his mark, the 30-year-old is excelling.

Since coming into the side at Southampton, Dawson is yet to see a goal conceded and has chalked up three wins across those four games.

There were a couple of sloppy moments here, a ball forward sent alarmingly wayward and out of play stood out, but against a growing Burnley barrage in the latter stages Dawson and Angelo Ogbonna stood firm.