After being signed as a right-back in 2015 from Nottingham Forest, few could have foreseen that Michail Antonio would go on to become West Ham’s all-time Premier League leading goalscorer. The final season at Upton Park saw him burst onto the scene with his unpredictable style of play and aerial dominance.
Since David Moyes has been manager at West Ham, Antonio has been converted to a striker and has been crucial to the Scotsman’s counter-attacking style of play. While fitness had been an issue earlier in his career, Antonio has been a mainstay for the last three seasons now.
However, Antonio is now 33 and can’t be tasked with being the starting number 9 for much longer; which begs the question, who will be?
Who is West Ham’s long-term Antonio replacement?
Option 1: Sheraldo Becker
At 28 years old, Becker is an experienced player who is still improving heading into the prime of his career. Union Berlin’s Cinderella run to the Champions League Group Stages this year was driven by Becker’s impressive campaign in the Bundesliga last season, and he’s continuing to impress on the big stage this year.
With 11 goals and seven assists in the league last season, Becker’s output is maybe not as impressive as some of Europe’s elite. However, his play style and profile make him the perfect Antonio replacement.
Becker stands at 6 feet tall and has a muscular build, similar to Antonio. Further, Becker’s engine and instincts around the 18-yard box makes him a suitable forward for a Moyes system. So much of Antonio’s success under Moyes has come from unpredictable runs and finishes, and Becker has demonstrated his ability to do just that at Berlin.
Valued at around 17 million euros by Transfermarkt.com, the Suriname international could be a good value for money buy in January when the budget won’t be as big as the summer’s.
Option 2: Serhou Guirassy
Off the back of a summer transfer move to VFB Stuttgart, the Guinean striker has been on fire to start the season. With a whopping 13 goals in just seven games, Guirassy is quickly proving to be one of the hottest attacking talents in Europe.
Aged 27, Guirassy could be entering his best years at the perfect time. Guirassy is an explosive athlete and powerful runner, two traits desperately needed to thrive off scraps in a Moyes counter-attacking system. Where Antonio lacks a bit of polish once in the 18-yard box, Guirassy’s goalscoring record already proves he is an elite finisher if given the chances.
Like Becker, Guirassy stands over six feet tall but moves very well for his size. Unlike the failed transfers of Sebastien Haller and Gianluca Scamacca, Guirassy would have no problem running the channels and stretching his legs.
Valued at just 14 million euros according to Transfermarkt.com, Guirassy could be a sneaky buy in January for Moyes and West Ham.
Option 3: Armando Broja
Broja impressed on loan at Southampton two years ago, so much so, that last summer he was a main target for Moyes. However, then-Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel claimed to have a spot for Broja in his plans at Stamford Bridge, so the Albanian forward’s move never materialized.
A bad injury in December of last year kept him out for the majority of last campaign, but he is returning to full fitness now. Broja is a presence on the ball, regularly flexing his muscles as he bursts past defenders with his above-average pace. Further, Broja has shown he can score goals in the Premier League in a counter-attacking system, whereas these other options have not.
Broja has been a long-term target of West Ham, and especially Moyes. At just 22 years old and valued at 28 million euros, Broja isn’t Chelsea’s number 9 for years to come, but he could be West Ham’s.
Option 4: Jarrod Bowen
The only option on this list already at West Ham, Moyes has been outspoken on how he thinks Bowen could one day make the transition to center forward. After all, Moyes has a great track record of turning wingers into forwards, only look at Mark Arnautovic and Antonio himself.
Bowen’s determination and work ethic off the ball suit him to Moyes’ style, and he’s probably the most polished finisher out of all the names discussed here. Further, if Bowen can make the transition to striker, that would open up the opportunity for Mohammed Kudus to operate on the right flank.
Bowen is brilliant on the wing, so taking him out of that role may raise some eyebrows. But, you just can’t look past the clear qualities Bowen possesses that Antonio does too. Both are quick, strong, and committed to Moyes’ style of play and the engine that is required to do so.
After just signing a long-term contract, Bowen leading the line for West Ham for years to come is an exciting prospect.
Despite Bowen’s brilliance, I do think Broja is the best choice here. The other options may be further down the line in their development, but for his age and the price you could get him, the Broja signing makes a lot of sense. Moyes clearly rates him given his previous transfer pursuit, and Broja knows the Premier League, an attribute that cannot be overlooked.