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Talking Tactics

Antonio can leave Watford trailing in relegation race

Adrian Clarke 16 Jul 2020
Michail Antonio, West Ham

Adrian Clarke analyses the 30-year-old's impact as a centre-forward and how he can be the difference in Friday's crucial match

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points in Matchweek 36.

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West Ham United will be hoping for another special individual display from Michail Antonio when they host relegation rivals Watford on Friday.  

The versatile 30-year-old has been a revelation at centre-forward across the last four matches, scoring six times including a four-goal haul at Norwich City 

Brimming with energy, drive and skill he is the most in-form striker in the Premier League.  

Antonio's four goals v Norwich

The forward's end product has been quite extraordinary. 

Outstanding against Chelsea, Burnley and Norwich in particular, he has registered 21 shots across the last 360 minutes of action while also creating 10 chances. 

Antonio attacking stats MW32-35
  CHE (H) NEW (A) BUR (H) NOR (A)
Shots 5 2 5 9
Succ. dribbles 1 1 6 5
Touches in box 10 4 15 14
Key passes 2 1 4 3

Tireless in his running, the Hammers' leading scorer is constantly making off-the-ball runs that provide team-mates with an out-ball.  

This has pushed opponents backwards and helped midfielders Mark Noble, Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice enjoy an upturn in form themselves 

Antonio is also helping to carry the ball up the pitch, completing 11 dribbles in the last two matches.

His relentless determination to sprint into the box has had a transformational effect.  

With a target to aim for, West Ham's full-backs and midfielders are now creating far more opportunities.  

Getting into the box

Between Matchweeks 32 and 35 no one in the top flight enjoyed more touches inside the opposition's penalty area than Antonio's 43.

So one of Watford's main tasks in this pivotal fixture at London Stadium will be to deny the forward space to make those devastating bursts.  

If they defend too deep, they will be inviting Antonio's aerial threat, so it will be a priority to force him to come deeper in search of the ball.  

Bowen influence

Jarrod Bowen has also played a part in helping West Ham claim seven points from their last four encounters. 

From his preferred position on the right flank, the attacker signed from Hull City in January is making more decisive forward runs.  

Bowen is David Moyes' quickest player and has used his pace to devastating effect, touching the ball 25 times inside the opposition box over the course of his last four outings.  

During that time, the 23-year-old has provided eight key passes, crossing for Antonio to score against both Chelsea and Newcastle United 

In his previous six Premier League appearances, Bowen had created only five chances.  

Battle for safety

Pos Team Pl GD Pts
15 BHA 38 -15 41
16 WHU 38 -13 39
17 AVL 38 -26 35
18 BOU 38 -25 34
19 WAT 38 -28 34
View Full Table

If Watford do not find a way to put the brakes on Bowen and Antonio, it will be a challenging evening for a team behind the Hammers on goal difference.

The pair have the speed and skill to make life uncomfortable for anyone at the moment. 

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