West Ham wide-man Michail Antonio’s impressive form must be becoming increasingly hard to ignore for England manager Roy Hodgson.
The 25-year-old Wandsworth native’s winner in the Irons’ 1-0 Boleyn Ground victory over Tottenham last night was his fourth goal in his last seven outings.
Having arrived in east London for £7m on transfer deadline day, he initially sunk almost without a trace, making a solitary substitute appearance across the subsequent ten games.
Seeming every inch the afterthought, squad-depth signing bought with little appetite from his manager, few would have predicted what was to follow.
An Irons injury crisis in late November finally forced Slaven Bilic into calling on the former Nottingham Forest man – he has featured in every game since.
His first team run began at the end of the 11th month with two introductions from the bench, but he has started all bar one fixture since the goalless draw with Stoke in early December.
A total of five goals and two assists in the 15 games since his first start for the club highlight the attacking threat he brings to the table.
Physically imposing, with an abundance of pace, Antonio is the kind of presence no defender on earth wants to deal with.
An able finisher, nowhere is he more deadly than at the back-post, where his aerial prowess has earned him more than one goal during his recent run.
Bilic’s decision to use him as a right-back (from which he scored against Tottenham) suggests the Irons boss has already developed trust in the previously peripheral figure.
It also highlights the kind of versatility that is treasured in squad members at international tournaments, where all circumstances must be budgeted for.
Theo Walcott, on the other hand, is 3/5, despite notching just twice in his last 22 outings for Arsenal, starting only two of their previous eight games (notching in neither) and offering nothing in terms of a right-back option.
More of a threat in the air, in better form, harder working and positionally adaptable, the West Ham has every right to rival the Gunners man for a berth in Hodgson’s raiding party.