Antonio makes case for being new man in middle

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COULD Michail Antonio be the latest winger to be turned into a successful striker?

I’m not talking about Theo Walcott, whose desire to play up front for Arsenal is well documented.

It’s Gary Bannister and Terry Curran who spring to my mind, and maybe readers can come up with other examples.

Bannister was a former wide man who was used as a striker by Jack Charlton, scored 66 goals in three years at Hillsborough, and was in Howard Wilkinson’s promotion side.

Curran famously was switched up front by Charlton to devasting effect and scored 24 goals for the 1980 promotion team.

Bannister was a quick, very skilful player; Curran, like Antonio, was strong as well as very fast.

Now the employment of Antonio’s pace and power in a central position has been, for me, the most interesting aspect of the Owls’ last two games.

Whether he remains there must be open to question. Dave Jones so far seems to have used the option for tactical reasons, in the second half of the Charlton game, and as a way of rotating players to retain freshnesss, at Bolton.

Jermaine Johnson has had the occasional job as a striker in the past and done it well but did not last there because, really, the role was foreign to him, he began to find less success there and was better suited to the wing.

Maybe Antonio will go the same way - or maybe he is on the way to proving that he is not just a winger.

It is a good thing if opponents are never sure where he is going to play, when they are doing their pre-match preparation. They cannot just come up with a game plan where, for example, they pick a midfield player to help out the full back in countering his pace on the flank, because now it might be the centre halves who find themselves up against him.

One thing they do know is that his pace is an ever-present danger. His touch and end product may not always be there - but he will tell you he is working on that, so watch out defenders.

The Antonio story unfolded after a substitution that will have seemed odd, to many people’s minds, when Kieran Lee, a right back, was coming on to replace Chris O’Grady, a centre forward, during the second half of the Charlton game. However, Dave Jones’s thinking quickly became clear when Antonio was switched up front to replace O’Grady.

Lee is an attacking right back so was able to play on the right side of midfield, with a licence to go forward as well as helping to shore up the defence, with Charlton throwing men forward.

Jones started at Bolton,with the same ploy. As soon as I saw the team, I thought Antonio would play up front: there were only two central midfield players in the side, David Prutton and Rhys McCabe, and Lee and Jeremy Helan looking certain to play on the flanks, that meant Antonio up front with Mamady Sidibe.

Now, there may have been some who thought that it was a bit of a risk, changing a winning side and putting both O’Grady and Gary Madine on the bench, but Jones was proved to be spot-on with his judgment.