West Ham legend spells out Michail Antonio challenge and rues January transfer window failure

The lack of competition for places in West Ham United’s attack is both a blessing and curse for Michail Antonio, Carlton Cole has said.

David Moyes’s team face a daunting trip to Anfield tomorrow evening having already beaten title-chasing Liverpool in the reverse fixture.

And while Antonio scored his first goal since New Year’s Day in Wednesday’s FA Cup defeat away to Southampton, the lack of a back up pushing him on could lead to complacency as much as playing every game could result in fatigue.

“There’s pressure on him to perform but maybe he can relax and not look over his shoulder,” Cole said. “You can look at it two ways.

“I needed to be pushed, I needed competition for places to be at my best. But when you don’t have competition for places and you know you’re going to start the next week even if you play badly or poorly, you can get into a trap as well.

“It’s up to the manager to keep galvanising him and make sure he doesn’t get complacent. I’m happy that he scored last night and hopefully he can go on to score this weekend as well.”

Cole, who made more than 250 appearances for the club and is now an academy coach, believes that it was always unrealistic to expect a top-four finish and qualifying for the Europa League again should have been the priority from the outset.

West Ham sit fifth before this weekend’s games but Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are within touching distance and have games in hand.

Getting a win at Anfield considering the form of Jurgen Klopp’s team seems a longshot.

“They are a different pedigree to what we are,” Cole said of Liverpool. “Then you have Chelsea, Man City. We’re probably looking at the Man United category at the moment so anything to do with getting into fourth place was a pipe dream.

“We weren’t looking at that to be honest with you, I’d say it was getting into Europe, the Europa League again. I said it last season, you don’t want too much success too quickly at a club like us because expectations can get too high and we’re not big spenders like the others can be. But we will have a go and keep hold of certain.”

Arsenal and Spurs do not have European football either, though there is a feeling among some West Ham fans that the Europa League tie against Sevilla should be their top priority. Cole wonders if the inability to bolster the squad in the January transfer window could prove costly.

“They are a solid based team but obviously this part of the season is going to be a little hard,” he added. “It’s always hard when you get across the line of Christmas. They didn’t make any additions so it was hard to see the team keep plugging away.

“I thought with the injection of a new player it would galvanise the team, make them a bit stronger and get a few more points on the table.

“But they are going to have to do it themselves and manufacture that feeling themselves. That’s hard to do, but the only person to do it is Moyesy.”

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