Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United’s four consecutive victories in the Premier League have brought with them many improvements in many different areas, and on an individual basis for many different players, too.
One of the most vivid examples is attacker Michail Antonio, who has seen his form transform with the form of his team as they’ve climbed to ninth in the table. Today, we’re going to carry out a statistics-driven tactical analysis on the drastic improvement of the ex-England man of many muscles.
Key stats comparison
First and foremost and for the main phase of this analysis, we have acquired the below image from our good friends over at wyscout.com, the providers of all the graphics in this Antonio analysis.
As we can see, the image contains the 28-year-old’s key general statistics from his last ten appearances in Claret & Blue, nine of which have come in the league and one in the Carabao Cup. Also, there’s a column with his career average figures per 90 minutes for these stats, but it’s just the last ten appearances that we’re going to be focussing on today.
You’ll see in the upper part of the graphic, the stats for the two games in the Hammers’ four-game Premier League run that Antonio has featured in, starting in the victories over Cardiff City and Fulham. He played the full 99 minutes in the first and 88 minutes in the second, before being substituted for youngster Grady Diangana at Craven Cottage. He was an unused substitute in the other two matches that have made up the hot streak, respective away and home wins over Newcastle United and Crystal Palace.
His figures in these two appearances, Antonio’s respective 16th and 17th outings under Pellegrini, compared to the eight previous will help to prove how the former Three Lions striker has improved drastically.
We start with total actions and the former Non-League star’s rate of success in them, with his 51 per cent total actions completed against Cardiff being the highest he’s registered from a start in his last ten appearances. Also, his 59 actions in the same game was his second highest since early October in the league.
A goal in each of the Bluebirds and Cottagers clashes, both of which we’ll analyse in more detail later on, despite playing right-back in the first are his only goals in the last ten. In fact, the Englishman hadn’t scored since the 8-0 thrashing of Macclesfield Town in the middle of September.
Antonio did fail to register an assist in his last two appearances, something he managed against Burnley in early November, as we can see. One area that didn’t appear to improve as much was his shooting, although his expected goals ratings for the two matches were clearly his second and third best in the last two-and-a-half months.
The man signed from Nottingham Forest for £7 million in the summer of 2015’s 26 short passes attempted was the second most in the last ten matches, while he attempted the most and completed the highest percentage of his long passes on the same successful evening.
An 80% dribble accuracy in West London last Saturday was his joint second most since the start of October. Meanwhile, it’s a case of ditto for his duels and the percentage won, matching the second-most in the period we’re analysing, tied with last month’s thrashing by Manchester City.
In terms of aerial duels, the star of Jamaican original entered the most in the Cottagers clash and won the highest percentage two matches before. This was as well as impressively making the most interceptions in, you guessed it, that same game.
Whilst there is evidence of Antonio being more wasteful in the last two matches than the previous eight, this can be put down to him seeing more minutes on average and a lot more of the ball. Whereas, he made the most recoveries of the last ten matches 15 days ago against Neil Warnock’s men, with his closing disciplinary record (just out of picture) showing his continuing of his record of no cards since the first match of the season in the last duo of games.
Overall, these statistics tell us that there are many facets of Antonio’s game that have improved over the last two matches, while his team have been winning. And he will be looking to continue improving in them and start to improve in others in the coming weeks.
His two goals
However, the real factors that have seen his improvement of late described as drastic are his two goals in the run, two eye-catching finishes which we’ll be analysing next.
The pair of strikes came in back-to-back appearances for Antonio, much like the last time he had scored in the Premier League, in two successive away defeats to Liverpool and Swansea City back in the spring, under the reign of David Moyes.
Aside from a simple header in the aforementioned incredible Macclesfield cup win, Antonio hadn’t netted in any competition for close to a year. Something that would change when Cardiff visited London Stadium on an early-December night.
As we can see in the image of the goal below, while the finish was strong, the ball just managed to get over the goal-line, out of the reach of the arms of goalkeeper Neil Etheridge. This was from a neat low header from the 28-year-old after Robert Snodgrass’ corner delivery had picked him out perfectly, to triple the Hammers lead in the 61st minute.
The versatile forward’s second goal in this run would come in his next appearance away at Fulham and as before mentioned, was another good finish. Below, we see the ball crossing the line in front of the Claret & Blue Army. Snodgrass’ cross once again, was flicked on by Javier Hernandez into his path, he side-footed it underneath Sergio Rico for his fifth goal of 2018 to double the advantage just before the half-hour mark.
Will it continue?
Many fans are now wondering whether the upturn in Antonio’s form, having generally been believed to have lost form after the club’s first season at London Stadium, is a mere flash in the pan or something that’s going to continue over the festive period.
With so many injuries in the attacking area, it’s looking like the former Three Lions man’s spell in the starting Xl is going to continue, for one. And with the four of the next five matches in the league against teams below the Hammers in the table, the argument will very much be that Antonio has a great opportunity to carry on his form.
The main element of Antonio’s drastic improvement in West Ham’s four consecutive victories has, without doubt, been his two goals in the space of two games. But there are other areas that have improved as well and are only set to get better, as our statistical tactical analysis today has found.
Just weeks ago, it appeared that the forward, who now looks to have rediscovered his Midas touch in front of goal, was heading for the exit from London Stadium in January. As the transfer window approaches, things have changed drastically and Antonio really does have a chance to establish himself as a firm fan favourite, once again.
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