David Moyes has a decision to make in the striker department ahead of Thursdays Europa clash. The Hammers face FK TSC Bačka Topola in the Europa League opener, and I suspect Michail Antonio will be rested.
The Jamaican striker has had a lot to say about Liverpool, and there is little doubt he’ll lead the line at Anfield. However, the European game at the London Stadium is likely to be the easiest of our Europa group stage. With that in mind, David Moyes may look to rest a couple of key players.
The manager never makes a full rotation of the starting eleven until qualification is secured, and I doubt he’ll start now. I’d fully expect at least four of those who began the game against Manchester City to make the starting line-up for Thursday.
But Antonio is a different case. He’s very much a senior player, and his fitness has to be monitored closely. His lack of recent injury is very much a result of that caution, so I’d rest him for this game.
Danny Ings is the player most likely to replace Antonio, but I’m not keen. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, he’s unsuited to Moyes system.
Mubama decision right for Moyes
Divin Mubama on the other hand is tailor made for the role. He’s fast, physical, has a prodigious work-rate and presses the opposition well. All of his qualities mark him out as a very different player to Ings. More importantly, those same attributes make him perfect for Moyes.
Now is the time to learn whether Mubama is good enough. Were Antonio to sustain a significant injury, West Ham certainly couldn’t rely on Danny Ings to lead the line. I’m aware that Moyes would possibly deploy Jarrod Bowen as an emergency forward, but that’s far from ideal.
I’m sure Mubama will get some European game-time this season, but what do we possibly learn from ten minutes here or there? He needs a start, and ideally one with the likes of Ward Prowse and Paqueta beside him.
Only then will we truly know if West Ham have another academy graduate on their hands.