West Ham United manager Slaven Bilić has admitted that the injury to Michail Antonio has proven to be a "massive blow", after it was confirmed he will miss the rest of the season with a hamstring injury.
Going to be a massive blow
Antonio's form has been one of a handful of positives from what has been a generally poor season for the Hammers, with the makeshift forward stepping up in the absence and eventual exit of former talisman Dimitri Payet.
The 26-year-old is currently the club's top scorer with nine goals, but the problems began before the international break with a hamstring injury in the 3-2 defeat to Leicester City forcing him to withdraw from the England squad.
Antonio returned once the domestic football resumed but came off early in Saturday's 1-0 win over Swansea City, and ahead of Saturday's trip to Sunderland Bilić confirmed he will be out for the remainder of the season.
"We are without Michail Antonio,” Bilić confirmed to his pre-match press conference. “For Antonio it is a significant injury so he is out for the season."
“It’s a massive blow, of course,” he admitted. “We know what he is giving us in every game."
"He’s one of our best players," the coach added. "So it’s going to be a big blow that we’re going to be without him for the rest of the season.”
We will wait and see
This significant injury will see Bilić have to rely on the likes of Andy Carroll and loan striker Jonathan Calleri to step up, with the Argentine having a point to prove after a disappointing debut season for the Hammers.
Calleri has only managed the single goal in the 3-1 win over Middlesbrough, but replaced Antonio on Saturday afternoon and impressed with his work rate and determination to double his tally for the campaign.
Many will have expected the 23-year-old to return to his parent club Deportivo Maldonado in the summer, but Bilić hinted that Calleri could make a permanent move to the London Stadium.
“We will see,” he hinted. “He is a very good professional, a very good boy."
"He didn’t play a lot," the Croatian admitted. "He is not a regular, but he never dropped one per cent of energy in training."
“ He is training like he is playing 90 minutes every week," the coach stated. "He is doing his best and that’s why he deserved a chance."
He played really well when he came on against Swansea," Bilić concluded. "It’s good to have him."