Antonio a supplier of chaos; sloppiness costing Sunderland

Date published: Saturday 27th February 2016 3:11

Antonio

Michail Antonio underlined his growing reputation with a stellar goal and performance against Sunderland, who were once again undone by a defensive mistake.

Antonio’s first-half goal was the difference between the sides as the Hammers squeezed a 1-0 victory to leave them unbeaten at home since August.

Here, we look at all the major talking points to emerge from Saturday’s clash at Upton Park.

“Supplier of chaos” Antonio proves his worth

Michail Antonio: Celebrates his goal for West Ham

After signing for West Ham last summer in a £7million deadline day deal from Nottingham Forest, Michail Antonio struggled to claim a regular place in Slaven Bilic’s West Ham side, prompting many to doubt whether the 22-year-old was capable of making it at the club.

But after another match-winning display for the Hammers, those doubts are now over. The pacy winger was described as a “supplier of chaos” by observers against Sunderland, and the winger showed why when he brushed past two defenders and placed his strike in the far corner of Vito Mannone’s goal to put his side in the lead.

Antonio has now scored four goals in 12 games in the Premier League this season, and his latest was possibly his best yet. With raw pace and power going forward and now, proof he can finish, Antonio has shown the Hammers fans he is capable of playing the “West Ham way”.

Should he produce more performances as impressive as his display against Sunderland, the £7million transfer will soon be seen as a stroke of genius.

Sunderland sloppiness could cost them Premier League status

Sam Allardyce: Watches the action at Upton Park

After falling behind against West Ham to such a soft goal from a defensive point of view, Sam Allardyce would have no doubt been furious with his defenders for giving the ball away and allowing Antonio a shot at goal so easily.

Left-back Patrick van Aanholt – arguably Sunderland’s most improved player this season – failed the clear the ball despite being under no clear pressure, and Antonio took advantage by skipping past two players relatively easily and placing the ball in the far corner.

Allardyce, a manager notorious for his defensive stability, needs to find an answer to his side’s defensive woes if they are to stand a chance of Premier League survival.

The Black Cats now have the worst defensive record in the league, and it is a case of back to the training ground for Big Sam as he looks to solve a problem that has denied them taking anything from the game on so many occasions this season.

Payet can be a Premier League great

West Ham star Dimitri Payet has taken the Premier League by storm this season since his £12million summer transfer from Marseille, scoring seven goals and providing five assists in the league this season.

The France international has become a fan-favourite at the Boleyn Ground, and was rewarded with a new £120,000-a-week contract to commit his future to the club until 2020.

Despite having a rare off day against Sunderland, when he picks up the ball you just get the sense that something is about to happen. After quickly proving he is in fact the real deal, the question that remains is how good can Payet actually be?

West Ham fans will surely admit that he is one of the best players to have graced the club in recent years, up there with cult heroes Carlos Tevez and Paolo Di Canio. His stature and movement on the ball is reminiscent of Tevez, and if the 26-year-old continues to show such inspiring performances for the Hammers, he may well be known as not only a West Ham great, but a Premier League great.

Bilic vs Allardyce – How West Ham have changed

Slaven Bilic: Watches the action at Upton Park

On Sam Allardyce’s return to West Ham having left the club last year, an interesting aspect of the match was to see just how much the Hammers have improved since appointing Slaven Bilic.

Allardyce was heavily criticised during his time at the club for the style of football his team played, regardless of whether they were winning or not.

Appointing Bilic was no doubt a huge risk, but one that has payed off. The Hammers are now not only winning matches, but winning with style and flair. Last season West Ham finished 12th in the Premier League, scoring 44 goals and conceding 47.

After claiming all three points against Sunderland, they have now climbed to fifth in the league, four points off a Champions League spot. Bilic’s side have also scored 41 goals this season, conceding only 31, a huge improvement on last season.

With the Hammers now unbeaten at home since August, it is no wonder the home supporters since “super Slav” so profoundly.

Byram for Euro 2016?

In only his second Premier League start since his £4million January transfer from Leeds United, full-back Sam Byram produced an impressive display against Sunderland when faced against tricky attacking-minded duo Whabi Khazri and Patrick van Aanholt.

Bryam also showed his attacking ability when making a darting run to the back post to set up Andy Carroll, who should have scored but his effort from six yards crashed against the crossbar.

Should Byram continue such performances until the end of the season, he could potentially emerge as a surprise inclusion in Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2016 England squad.

The 22-year-old has embraced the step up from the Championship to the Premier League, and with a number of injury worries for Hodgson ahead of the summer tournament in France, Byram could be in line for a surprise inclusion.

Scott Anderson

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