Michail Antonio: We want to end the season on a high note
MIchail Antonio knows there is still a lot to play as West Ham United try to qualify for European football in their last three games of the Premier League season.
The Hammers’ joint top scorer made 29 appearances in 2015/16, the last time the Irons faced a comparable challenge in a campaign.
On this occasion, however, despite reaching fifth in the table with three games to go, the losses to two lower-ranked teams saw then-coach Slaven Bilic’s side slip to seventh. position – despite recording the club’s best Premier League. total points (62).
That’s a number David Moyes’ Hammers are just four years away from surpassing and – against three of the last seven Premier League sides in their remaining games – Antonio is determined to only move up the standings this time around.
West Ham start Saturday night’s game at Brighton & Hove Albion with the strongest Premier League record against sides outside the traditional ‘Big Six’ – a statistic that has not been lost on Antonio.
“In 2015/16 we beat a lot of the top six teams, but we lost to the teams that were below us or that weren’t around us,” recalls the No30.
“This season we’ve done well where, while we haven’t done the best against the top six, we’ve done well against almost everyone below us.
“We think that, with the approach of these last three matches, these are essential matches for us because, mathematically, we are not excluded from the Champions League and are well placed to enter Europe.
“Obviously we want to end the season on a high because it’s been amazing so we have to be professional until the end.”
A mitigating factor at West Ham, which has recorded three losses in its last four league games, has been the many unfortunate injuries to its first-team team.
Yet despite the absence of a number of key players, the Irons continued to perform well, firing back two goals with ten men against Newcastle and holding almost 70% of the possession against Everton.
“We didn’t play badly at all,” admitted Antonio, “and we also had a lot of injuries. We have had injuries throughout the season.
“In the last four games we’ve picked up a big amount – me, Angelo Ogbonna, Aaron Cresswell, Arthur Masuaku, Declan Rice and Andriy Yarmolenko have all been knocked out – and we don’t have a massive squad so we can ‘ I can’t afford to have so many missing players.
“It has affected our results in the last four games, but we have players coming back so we are going strong in the last few games.”
Saturday’s opponents at Amex Stadium are Brighton & Hove Albion, a side whose attractive football brand has certainly grabbed attention this season.
Graham Potter’s side ensured the safety of the Premier League following Fulham’s loss to Burnley on Monday, with Antonio being intrigued to see if that will influence the dynamics of Saturday’s game.
He explained: “Brighton have been playing amazing football all season, they just haven’t had that finishing touch sometimes.
“Now they’re safe, this is one of those games where it’s weird – we don’t know if they’re going to be more relaxed or if they’re going to get into a game where they don’t have any pressure. . on them, and can be an attacking team freely.
“We’re going to go out there, be professional and do the job that needs to be done.”
Part of Antonio’s job these days is scoring goals – and it’s not lost for the 31-year-old that just three more goals this season would see him accomplish a historic feat.
With 45 strikes under his belt, the Wandsworth-born striker could yet eclipse captain Mark Noble (46) and east London legend Paolo di Canio (47) in the all-time Premier scorers list. West Ham League.
“I’ve been here for six years now and have played right back, wing, left back… lots of positions!” Antonio reflects.
“For two seasons now, I’ve been a striker, and for someone who hasn’t really had the opportunity to be in front, to say that I could become the all-time leading scorer in the Premier League, numbering matches that I played there, is just amazing.
“There are some very good forwards and some very good names on this list. For me to become our all-time top scorer in the Premier League would be a great achievement.
“This is the kind of thing I love, making history… and that would only add to my list!”