West Ham attacker could be emergency right-back in busy December
PUBLISHED: 08:30 30 November 2018
Pellegrini hints at Antonio role with Zabaleta unable to play seven games in a month
West Ham attacker Michail Antonio was the star man in last weekend’s drubbing by Manchester City, but he could find himself playing as a back-up right-back during December.
Hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini revealed that he did not think Pablo Zabaleta will be able to play seven games in December and with Ryan Fredericks injured, he is looking for an alternative.
“Unfortunately, we have just one right-back and that is Zabaleta,” said the boss. “For his age, it is impossible for him to play seven games in December.
“First we are going to try and beat Newcastle tomorrow with Pablo, but we have looked at various options in training this week to replace him.”
One of those is Antonio, who played up front with Marko Arnautovic against Manchester City, but Pellegrini doesn’t see him staying there.
“He was our most dangerous player against City, you can be happy about that,” added the Chilean.
“But if you have two or three clear chances, you must also score to demonstrate you can do it.
“His two chances could have changed the game, so on one side you are happy, but on the other he is not scoring.
“Against City I put him with Marko Arnautovic because their strength and pace was the best way to create danger.
“But I don’t think that is his best position to play, He can play on the wing and he may play as a right-back in some games.”
That will start ringing the alarm bells for some fans who saw him play at right-back before, but that will be for another day.
Tomorrow against in-form Newcastle United, he may well replace Grady Diangana on the right wing as the youngster looks like he may need a rest.
Robert Snodgrass is back from suspension, while skipper Mark Noble may also start after surprisingly being left out against defending champions City.
“I don’t know why you think it was a surprise,” said Pellegrini.
“He had a three-game ban and when he was out we played well and won. It was logical to continue with the same players.
“I see Snodgrass as being in the squad at least along with Noble and Arnautovic, but we will decide on the team on Friday.”
West Ham will face a Newcastle side on the back of a three-game winning spree.
The Hammers have won just once at St James’ Park in 20 years and many consider this clash to be a crucial one, but Pellegrini doesn’t see it that way.
“I don’t think it is a crucial match for either team,” he said. “They are at home, they are in a good moment, but we need to play, after this, 24 games more.”
Tomorrow’s match kicks off at 3pm, while on Tuesday the Hammers host Cardiff City.