Brentford and West Ham highlight contrasting concerns in tale of absent strikers
A tale of two missing strikers brought contrasting concerns for David Moyes and Thomas Frank ahead of this London derby in the sun.
For the Brentford boss, whose side won 2-0, it was long-term, a glimpse of what life might look like beyond Ivan Toney, absent here because of a hamstring problem but sure to be a target for top clubs this summer, even if the situation is complicated by the threat of a gambling ban.
For Moyes and West Ham, it was more immediate, the Scot taking no chances as he made nine changes with a view to Thursday’s European semi-final against AZ Alkmaar. But Michail Antonio’s failure to be even among the substitutes was a worry ahead of the trip to the Netherlands.
Despite Moyes giving little away post-match, there is optimism that Antonio will recover from a calf problem in time — and that is just as well, for this was a day when none of the understudies made a convincing case for inclusion.
Perhaps it is harsh to judge Danny Ings as the spearhead of a weakened team, the likes of Maxwel Cornet and Pablo Fornals ineffective in providing service for a striker reliant upon it, but the January signing has consistently struggled whenever tasked with leading the line on his own.
Crucial goals against Nottingham Forest and at Gent may be enough to justify a £15million mid-season outlay already, but West Ham are not the same force without Antonio’s bullying presence, the 33-year-old much maligned during a poor start to the season but back to his best of late.
Defensively, Moyes’s side were not much cop here either, gifting away possession in the build-up to Bryan Mbeumo’s opener, which Lukasz Fabianski ought to have saved, and then undone, not for the first time in recent weeks, by a long throw-in for Yoane Wissa’s second.
That Brentford’s margin of victory was not greater suggested they did not exactly make light of Toney’s absence, Wissa and Mikkel Damsgaard guilty of missing chances the 20-goal top-scorer would surely have buried.
On Friday, Frank labelled his talisman a £100million footballer, a punchy statement, though less so when you consider what Harry Kane and Erling Haaland — the only players with more Premier League goals this season — would be valued at if sold tomorrow.
Even armed with a bolstered budget and Brentford’s outstanding record of recruiting strikers, the 27-year-old will take some replacing.