A shadow of the beast

Michael Antonio. He's a bit of an enigma, isn't he?

For every performance he throws out where he's been a fantastic team player and ran the opposition defence ragged, he's also had a stinker of a performance where balls go way-ward, he falls over like a leaf in a gust of wind and is like a headless chicken. He's a 2020s Carlton Cole.

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Lovely bloke, big smile, does things that makes you laugh, has a good game every other game, and plays on instinct - and when you give him a quarter-of-a-second to think about it, he shanks it out of touch or skies it in to row Z (or G as we're now at The London Stadium).

Now that's not to crticise Antonio unduly - as usual, we have totally polarising opinions on the KUMB Forum - and a massive great big empty void in the middle.

He's had a wonderful purple patch since we resumed after lockdown until the end of 2021. That's it. Of course, it's not his fault his hamstrings until this season appeared to be made of pasta and it's not his fault that he's been left to do everything on his own without an adequate replacement. Not back-up, not a bench warmer but a replacement - although even a bench warmer would have been nice this season.

Of course he is part of the reason as to where we are now but let's be honest, the good has been far outweighed by the bad since the turn of the year.

I fully accept he has had the odd game where he's been a beast, but to be properly challenging for honours - and when you remember we started the season in four competitions and are really now only with a prospect of doing well in one of those - it could be argued that with the mystical replacement or alternative, we'd actually be doing better than we are.

If David Moyes had signed a striker at the start of January who had the same amount of goals and assists that Antonio has accrued since then, rightly or wrongly we'd be asking questions whether it was as good a signing as we thought.

But that's all supposition, because we didn't. And again, that's not Antonio's fault nor is it his fault he's been flogged to death - although personally, I don't actually think he has been. He's an elite-level athlete.

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I think the reality now - and I never thought I'd say this - is that Michael Antonio would be perfect foil for a mid table Premier League team. What has happened is that amazingly - and accepting the part he played to get us where we are with his purple patch - we've outgrown Michael Antonio.

What a position to be in, when (I will say this very quietly, and it's in no way a criticism of him), that in my opinion, he's now not actually good enough to be first choice striker for where we are or could be, with a little bit of shrewd investment.

I beat the drum at the beginning of the season - and people thought I was mental - that we should have flogged him in a different sense, when his stock was high as the purple patch wouldn't last. Instead, we've given him a new deal.

As the pink palermo has repeated time and time again, one of our biggest failings as a club in recent years has been not knowing when to let a player go and instead giving them new contracts. I agree with my learned colleague.

That's what the big clubs do and if we want to start eating at the same table as them, that's something that we need to learn to do.

I'm happy to take the flack for the above and if people wish to interpret this as me slagging him off then well, they'd be wrong. I think it's a pretty fair and honest assessment of the bloke.

His 'day' is becoming fewer and far between compared to what they were and we need someone whose unplayable (and I don't mean unplayable due to injuries) games are the norm and the average to mediocre ones are the exception.

Sadly, as Antonio is getting that little bit older, the formula we need is the opposite to what we're getting from our number nine - but again, it's not his fault that age, injuries and lack of new signings mean that he's the poor bugger we're relying on week in and week out.

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