Talking Tactics: How Hammers can lift the burden off misfiring Michail
After seven games without finding the net for West Ham, Michail Antonio’s hot streak is well and truly over.
The Hammers frontman, 31, struck seven times in his first 10 matches this season season but his output has tailed off in recent weeks — raising concerns the Irons are overly reliant on their No9.
With his side already safely through as Europa League Group H winners, boss David Moyes has the chance to experiment with his line-up in this evening’s clash with Dinamo Zagreb.
Ahead of that encounter, we take a look at what the East Londoners can do to lift some of the weight off Antonio’s shoulders.
Give youth a chance
West Ham Under-23s beat Crystal Palace 4-2 on Monday to retain top spot in Premier League 2 — but a good number of their players were rested, suggesting some may feature against Dinamo.
So which less familiar faces might the home faithful catch a glimpse of tonight at the London Stadium?
Striker Sonny Perkins, 17, has already featured in the Europa League after coming off the bench to make his first-team debut in a 2-0 win at Rapid Wien a fortnight ago.
And at the other end of the field, defenders Ajibola Alese, Harrison Ashby, Jamal Baptiste and Emmanuel Longelo could all be handed a shot after training with the first team.
Squeeze more out of set-pieces
When it comes to dead-ball situations, West Ham are among the best teams in the Premier League — only four sides have scored more goals from free-kicks and corners this season than their six.
Just five teams rank above them creatively, with the Hammers accumulating an expected goals total of 4.8 from set-pieces.
Could they be doing even more, though? Quite possibly — especially with the pinpoint deliveries of Vladimir Coufal and, when fit again, Aaron Cresswell.
A season-ending injury to Angelo Ogbonna may have robbed Moyes of one key set-piece threat but he has several others at his disposal.
Tomas Soucek scored three headed goals last season — the most of any Premier League midfielder — while Craig Dawson has almost 50 career strikes.
Jarrod Bowen scored West Ham’s second of the afternoon in the 3-2 win over Chelsea last Saturday — and came within inches of bagging a brace in the closing stages.
Since joining the Hammers in January last year, Bowen has yet to match the prolific goalscoring form he showed for previous club Hull in the Championship.
But he has certainly not looked remotely out of place since returning to the top flight.
Versatile enough to play out wide or as a centre forward, tremendously hard-working and with the ability to produce a moment of magic, the 24-year-old continues to be a key asset for the Irons.
Maximising Bowen's influence will inevitably result in an increased goal output for Moyes' side.
January is just around the corner, so Moyes may consider going into the market for an attacking reinforcement or two.
West Ham lack a like-for-like back-up for Antonio, having never replaced Sebastien Haller after his move to Ajax almost a year ago.
And they might not have to spend big. After all, shrewd signings such as Coufal and Soucek highlighted that the Hammers know how to find value in the transfer market.
Basel striker Arthur Cabral is the latest name to be linked, with the 23-year-old Brazilian netting 14 goals in just 15 Swiss Super League appearances this season.
Bring Lingard back
A move to East London did not materialise during the summer for Jesse Lingard — but after his scintillating loan spell at West Ham, the England attacking midfielder has found himself back to square one at Manchester United.
And if he does not see more playing time under new Red Devils boss Ralf Rangnick, the England man may once again angle for a winter move.
Lingard, 28, netted nine goals in 16 appearances for the Hammers, as well as providing four assists, and Moyes would no doubt be delighted to have him back at the London Stadium.
Speaking about the situation last week, he said: "Jesse knows what we all think of him here.
"My disappointment for Jesse would be I think he’s such a talented football player and he’s not playing."
A January deal could well be on the cards — although Lingard is set to become a free agent when his contract at Old Trafford expires next summer.
A couple of attacking additions combined with an influx of young talent, while maximising the weapons already at their disposal, could all help West Ham paper over the cracks in Antonio's form.
By then, the Jamaica international may have rediscovered his shooting boots, helping fire the Irons to European glory.