Sakho’s injury could be big chance for forgotten West Ham man

After starting the game brightly on Sunday Slaven Bilic would have been disappointed to see his West Ham side fail to bag three points against West Brom, but what would have displeased him more was the injury picked up by his star striker.

Diafra Sakho knew instantly that he needed to be substituted after hurting his thigh when attempting a shot on Boaz Myhill’s goal half-way through the second half.

And now it appears as if the Senegal forward will be joining playmaker Dimitri Payet and Enner Valencia on the long-term injury list, with a spell of two month out the rumoured diagnosis.

What his absence does now is pose a teaser for the Croat in charge at Upton Park, with Sakho out, he must now decide on how to approach the impending busy Christmas schedule in regards to his attacking plans.

Andy Carroll would be the obvious solution in that the 26-year-old is the Hammers’ record signing and, on his day, can be a thorn in the side of any defence.

However the former Newcastle man’s late winner against Chelsea is the only spark he has shown since rejoining the side earlier this season.

Furthermore, his style of play isn’t particularly suited to Bilic’s preferred free-flowing style of football.

Nikica Jelavic would be another option, with the 36-capped Croatian proven at Premier League level, netting 29 goals in 75 top-flight appearances for Everton and Hull.

However, he has made just seven substitute appearances for the east London club since joining in the summer, and looks down the pecking order for his compatriot in charge.

Ultimately though, while he too has been largely overlooked by his manager since arriving from Nottingham Forest, it could be that turning to Michail Antonio is Bilic’s best option going forward.

After arriving in a £7m deal from the Championship club, Antonio has been limited to just 38 minutes playing time for the Irons.

But it may be that now is the perfect time to elevate him in the Hammers starting XI.

Antonio has had little chance to make an impact since arriving at West Ham

Antonio has had little chance to make an impact since arriving at West Ham

The trio of Mauro Zarate, Manuel Lanzini and Victor Moses have so far coped admirably behind the front-man in the wake of Payet’s injury and adding the 25-year-old to that attacking unit might just be the ticket for United.

Zarate is one player that has played as a striker in the past, but he doesn’t possess the strength and size likely to be needed when they come up against a hard-to-beat Manchester United defence on Saturday.

Antonio has the speed, strength and the prowess in front of goal that makes him a prime candidate to fill the void left by Sakho.

While he has played out wide for much of his career, he’s no slouch when it comes to scoring goals, having netted 14 times for Forest last season, as well as two in four before moving south in September.

He wouldn’t necessarily need to be implemented as a traditional striker with a fluid front four, operating a variation of a ‘False 9’ system with Zarate, Lanzini and Moses, who have eight goals between them this term, likely to pay dividends.

Some areas of the West Ham fanbase might be starting to wonder why they have seen precious little of the player they splashed £7m on four months ago, and it’s easy to see why.

In all reality, Bilic will opt for one of his recognised strikers  in Carroll or Jelavic for the upcoming game against the Red Devils, but with neither of those inspiring much confidence this term, it could be that Antonio’s big break isn’t far away.

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.