In focus: The West Ham player capable of destroying Marcos Alonso
COMMENT By Matt Farr
West Ham were dealt a major blow in their preparations for Monday’s Premier League tie with Chelsea as star man Michail Antonio will be forced to sit out with suspension.
The 26-year-old picked up two yellow cards during the 1-1 draw with Watford last time out, earning himself an early bath with a deliberate handball.
While the incident itself was a reckless one from Antonio, the loss will be made all the more emphatic for West Ham given the effect he could have had against Chelsea.
The England winger has been the chief creative and goalscoring outlet for the Hammers this season, contributing eight goals and five assists, and could have exploited an area of weakness in the Chelsea back-line.
Chelsea’s defence has been near impenetrable at times, conceding just 19 goals from their opening 26 Premier League games, but Marcos Alonso has given them cause for concern.
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The 26-year-old was brought in by Antonio Conte in the summer to perform the left-wing back role for Chelsea this season, but while his attacking contributions have been useful, his ability to defend has come into question.
He is both inconsistent and unreliable, and several teams have already shown the vulnerabilities to his defensive game.
If West Ham stand any chance of getting a result against Chelsea on Monday, they will have needed Antonio.
There are others that can step up to the plate for the Hammers though, including Robert Snodgrass and Sofiane Feghouli, but Antonio would have had the bigger impact.
His pace, directness, strength and desire would have given Alonso a real test, and with target-man Andy Carroll likely to return to the starting XI to lead the line, West Ham could only have benefitted from it.
He has completed the fifth-highest number of dribbles in the Premier League this season, and to not have him running at Alonso on the right-hand side is a major loss.
Meanwhile, his aerial ability could also have been a major issue for the Chelsea defence. The Blues are comfortable when the ball is on the floor, but in the air, they are once again vulnerable.
Antonio has scored six headed goals this season, more than any other in the Premier League, and again, the Spanish full-back would have been in trouble.
Chelsea will still be confident of victory, but their task will no doubt be a little easier after seeing Antonio on the sidelines. They could well have dodged a bullet.
With Dimitri Payet a thing of the past, Antonio is the new star attraction in east London. Sadly, there will be no tickets sold for this particular show on Monday.
In other West Ham news, Antonio has made this remarkable transfer admission.