If you ask most West Ham United fans, they’ll tell you that winger Michail Antonio’s form has declined in the last two seasons, or perhaps even more, proclaiming that he’s a shade of the player he used to be when he first joined the club in summer 2015.
Today, through the mystical powers of statistics-driven tactical analysis, we are going to be analysing the validity of the popular claim by taking an in-depth look at it, his three and a quarter campaigns in Claret & Blue and whether he has a future at the club beyond the next transfer window. Join us.
The decline that many in the football world believe the former England International has been the subject of involves a drop in the overall quality of the paceman’s performances after each season of his career in East London, from his 2015 move.
Antonio proved a popular figure in his first two seasons, under the reign of Slaven Bilic, his contribution in his debut season helping to fire the Hammers into Europe and picking up the Hammer of the Year award in his second campaign.
But since then, some will say after a series of injuries plagued his second season and followed into his third campaign at the club or the signing of a new contract at the end of the 2016/2017 season, the former Nottingham Forest man just hasn’t been the same.
As we will find out, the statistics back up these claims as the player has struggled in the last 18 months, but just how much of a descent will they suggest the 28-year-old has suffered, how dramatic the decline and is he really now a mere shadow of what he used to be? Find out next.
How The Stats Prove It
For the main part of this tactical analysis, we are going to answer those questions with the help of our good friends over at wyscout.com, whom we have acquired the below four images from.
Each of the graphics contains a block of his average attacking stats from each season since hooking up with the Hammers, from his appearances in Claret & Blue, we will be comparing them in order to study the decline. All of the figures are per 90 minutes and from all competitions, Antonio featured in during those campaigns.
The first stat we are drawn to is goals per 90 minutes and while Antonio isn’t yet into double-figures in terms of appearances this season, so that must be accounted for although these are averages, already we see a pattern. His goals per 90 minutes ratio starts at 0.31 and depreciates each term to get to the nowadays total of 0.14.
However, being previously known as a goal-making as well as goalscoring attack, his average assist rate doesn’t follow the same trend, rising steadily from 0.07 in his first season in the Premier League, to 0.14 this campaign.
The former non-league star’s number of shots per match and percentage of them on target has also never been higher in a West Ham shirt, along with his expected goals rating, which is now an impressive 0.49, having scored once in 13 appearances under Pellegrini.
But, the same can’t be said of his shot assists average, average number of shots set up for teammates per 90 minutes, as it is at a low 0.71, the second-lowest of his Irons career.
When it comes to crossing and crossing accuracy, Antonio is thought to have improved since his early days, but the stats suggest otherwise as at 2.6 with a 22.3% accuracy, they are at a West Ham-low.
He may be attempting the most dribbles he ever has at the club, in all likelihood, due to the style of play preferred by his new Chilean gaffer, but the man who was called up to an England squad three times but is yet to be capped has never completed fewer in the capital, on average.
In 2018/2019, Antonio has been, on average, embroiled in the second most offensive duels he ever has as a Hammers player, 17.62, achieving the second-best accuracy of 49.2%, too. Meanwhile, his average 4.04 touches in the opposition box trump his previous best of 2.8 in Claret & Blue.
The stats finish well for Deadline Day summer 2015 arrival as he has never been found offside fewer times or made more progressive runs on average than he has been this season. Although, there will always be the argument that he is only ever fulfilling a striker’s role these days, while earlier in his time at the club, he was tried in right midfield, right wing and even right-back, but more often than not, he was to be found in the final third, somewhere.
Antonio’s almost two fouls drawn every time he steps onto the field for a full match under the reign of Pellegrini is once more, the second-best figure of his spell in East London, keeping in line with the stereotype that all footballers hit their prime at around the age the 28-year-old currently is.
However, if one thing’s for sure, Antonio certainly isn’t in his prime at the moment as his score in a total of six out of the 14 statistics isn’t his best over the entirety of his West Ham career. In some areas, there is evidence that his skills have declined over the years at London Stadium, although in others, signs that they are getting better. But it must be noted that the sample size from this campaign thus far is very small, in comparison.
Speculation about Antonio’s future, especially since the beginning of his perceived dip in form that has seen managers like David Moyes and Pellegrini at present, use him as only a backup option, never seems to be too far away from the back pages.
Reportedly, he was very close to joining top-flight rivals Crystal Palace over the summer, though, Pellegrini wanted to keep him to provide squad depth in the attack. With the January transfer window fast approaching, rumours linking him with a move away continue despite there being over three years left on his contract, it looks likely he will leave West Ham either this winter or the summer of 2019.
In conclusion, our statistical tactical analysis today has found that, regarding the statement that Antonio is a shadow of the player he was once, fans who proclaim so are correct to a certain extent and incorrect to a certain extent as the stats are mostly divided.
There are some aspects of his overall game that seem to have become weaker over the course of his four seasons in Claret & Blue and others that, based on this campaign, have improved and become stronger. But there can be little doubting that, given the sheer volume of players Pellegrini now possesses in the attacking area, the East Londoners should look to cash in on Antonio while they can, whether that be in the next transfer window, or the much longer one after that.