Throw yourself back to last summer and you will remember that not everything was rosy in the West Ham garden.
They had just retained their Premier League status, the fan approval of David Moyes was hardly through the roof despite leading the club to safety, they were stuck with the wrong, big money signed Sebastien Haller and the sale of Grady Diangana still saw captain Mark Noble in public lambast club.
As the captain of this football club, I am tired, angry and sad that Grady has left, good children with a great future !!!!! https://t.co/oNPPEp8Pt6
– MARK NOBLE (@ Noble16Mark) September 4, 2020
How times have changed.
Since then, Hammarna has barely set a foot wrong. Their transfer business has been fantastic, with Tomas Soucek (who was originally loaned out at the club), Vladimir Coufal, Jesse Lingard and Craig Dawson all excelling, either signing permanent or temporary deals, Moyes’ management sniff getting them in from the top four and they have even managed to get back 20 million pounds on Haller!
But just as the season enters the home, could the wheels be about to fall off the West Ham wagon?
Moyes’ side received a huge blow after news star midfielder Declan Rice faced a month on the side with a knee injury, and to make matters worse, it has now been confirmed that Michail Antonio will keep the English man company in the treatment room.
The frontman hobbled off during West Ham’s thrilling 3-2 win over Wolves on Monday night, with subsequent scans revealing that he would miss between 4-6 weeks of action and may not present this promotion again.
Michail Antonio was forced to hobble against Wolves’ Michael Regan / Getty Images
While there is never a good time for a club to be without its main striker, the loss of Antonio could not have come at a worse time for West Ham.
It’s not even because the frontman brings with him a bucketful of goals that have pushed the Hammers within reach of Europe’s premier competition – with only seven of 21 exits he is hardly what you would call productive – but his all-round play is something like West Him simply has no compensation for.
Moyes’ side success this campaign has been built on a solid defensive base, but their pace and direct approach going forward is what sets them apart from the sides that have just done enough to eek out occasional good results.
Antonio is central to their attacking play; give pace to the channels to relieve the pressure on his team and have the ability to hold the ball and bring in the likes of Lingard, Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen.
Jarrod Bowen was commissioned to replace Michail Antonio on Monday night Matthew Ashton – AMA / Getty Images
The latter of the above-mentioned trio replaced the injured Antonio at Molineux earlier this week, and while he finally scored tonight’s winning goal, West Ham had to adapt their style of play and almost threw away what looked like a comfortable victory.
Without Antonio at the top end of the field to protect the ball and give his side a moment to catch their breath, the Wolves’ speed continued to build and they were left on the three points.
The fact that the injury has come while Rice is also absent from the match day team is an even bigger blow to Moyes Champions League ambitions.
Both players are leaders and leaders in the West Ham locker room, and just like Antonio, Rice’s ability to pick up his head and carry the ball to pull the Hammers up the pitch to avoid camping in their own half and inviting pressure helps.
While a midfielder with Rice’s ability will always be a miss for West Ham, the simple fact is that Moyes can probably only scrape with a midfielder who can play a similar role – if not to the same level as England man.
David Moyes will be forced to mix his pack in the coming weeks Pool / Getty Images
West Ham simply do not have an Antonio Plan B – he is the plan.
Of all the teams in the hunt for a top four spot, Hammer’s run-in actually seems quite favorable on paper, with winning games against Newcastle, Brighton, Burnley, West Brom and Southampton coming.
But without their principal up front, they will be forced to adapt the style of play that was so successful this season and which could have a huge negative impact on their performance.