I have never been so happy to have been proved wrong. I have made my views on what I think we should have done with Antonio in the not too distant past plainly clear for all to see. I wanted us to ship him out in whatever way we could as for some reason he did not seem to want to be the player that we first saw when he moved to East London.
He was 100% about hard work, and it paid off for him. He was at his best when running straight at the opposition, any hesitation from a defender in the challenge and the chances were heavily stacked in our favour. Even if the defender did get a foot on the ball it wasn’t uncommon for Antonio to recover possession instantaneously and charge on with the ball. He created his own luck, simply by giving 100% in to everything he did. Just look at his first goal, that was all about the effort put in to make a difference and fortunately it ended up in the back of the net.
It could be a coincidence, but after getting a call up the National team his performances, and more worryingly attitude, declined sharply. There were mentions that he wanted to move and felt he should be playing upfront. It appeared to some as though he had got his call up and became Billy Big Bollocks.
He also picked up a few niggling injuries which seemed hard for him to shake and fully recover from. Hopefully it was more down to the injuries than anything else but the earlier mentioned rumours had certainly played a part in to why I felt we would be better of it we were to move him on.
It has taken a little while but since around the halfway point of the season Pellegrini has had a clear impact on the way Antonio is performing. He appears to be much better with his back to the opposition now. Whether is it a simple lay off then making the run to get in to space behind or holding the ball and beating the defender, his all round play has certainly improved. To make it even better he looks as though he has that hunger to make a difference every time he gets the ball again. He wasn’t a fan favourite because he could mesmerise defenders with his skill. It was because we could see how hard he was working to influence the game.
His goal against Spurs is the first they have conceded since they moved back to their ground so it was great to be the first team to take the points away from them, it is also a nice personal record for him. He has now scored 6 goals and assisted on 3 occasions with 4 goals and 2 of those assist’s coming after Christmas. He is back to his best, arguably performing better than we have ever seen him. I know his technical ability has been questioned even from his days playing in the lower levels of the football, but when in the mood to perform as we have seen in recent months he has proved that he is capable of playing and deserving of his place in the Premier League.
Antonio I offer my most sincere apologies, it is great to see him back, fitter and performing better than ever. But please pre warn the front row next time you plan to celebrate like that you could have blacked someone’s eye.
It would be great to hear your thoughts on Antonio’s upturn in form on twitter @myWHUopinion
Written by Jack | @myWHUopinion