Sport Soccer

Thursday 18 January 2018

Slaven Bilic tells West Ham stars they must make sacrifices

Michail Antonio has already been deployed in both defence and midfield for West Ham this season
Michail Antonio has already been deployed in both defence and midfield for West Ham this season

Slaven Bilic will keep operating Michail Antonio at right-back and has called on his players to be "humble" when asked to sacrifice their favoured position for the good of his West Ham side.

Antonio, 26, was signed last summer after impressing on the wing for Nottingham Forest - but towards the end of his first season he was being deployed in defence for Bilic's side.

He also started there in Monday's defeat to Chelsea, conceding an early second-half penalty moments before being hauled off by Bilic in the 2-1 loss.

Bilic has said the former non-league player will still have to do shifts in the defence as well as playing on the wing, as he did in Thursday's 1-1 Europa League play-off draw at Astra Giurgiu.

"I have told him it is going to be a mix," Bilic said when asked where Antonio's long-term position would be.

"I expect my players to be humble and sacrifice individually for the sake of the team which we did last year.

"Without that you have got no chance and that was our pattern and base last year, and on that we built what we had - it was our biggest strength, the team.

"It is always my decision who is going to play and which position they will play. Of course it would be ideal if we could put all of them in their ideal positions. There's no democracy like that in this business."

The Hammers have a ready-made right-back in January signing Sam Byram and he could start there against Bournemouth on Sunday in the first Premier League game to come from the London Stadium.

But Bilic has faith that Antonio can be just as good in either role as his side look to contend with a run of five games in a fortnight.

"He's a really good lad, a great professional," Bilic said.

"He didn't have a bad game (against Chelsea), he had a really bad reaction, he was too sloppy (with) what he had done in that position.

"Against Chelsea, as a winger in that position after 60 minutes of the game you simply can't do that. But it's a game of mistakes and, as I said, he's a brilliant lad, a brilliant professional.

"And I told him before the season that he's going to play probably a mix of those two positions, but for me he's got the quality for both of them."

While it remains to be seen where Antonio features on Sunday, one man hoping to make his Premier League debut will be new loan signing Jonathan Calleri.

The highly-rated 22-year-old has signed on a season-long loan from Deportivo Maldonado and was part of the Argentina squad which featured at the Olympics.

He started the draw in Romania on Thursday and Bilic has backed the young forward to prove he can cut it in England.

Asked if former Boca Juniors player Calleri can produce in the Premier League, Bilic said: "Hopefully he will.

"Do I know that? I don't, but I strongly believe it. Because he scored in the first league there and the Copa Libertadores, both very difficult, very tough competitions. Not a jolly-up.

"He showed quality, he showed strength, he showed team play, he likes to play with his mates, he's not an individual. And then his finishing is spot-on.

"So of course we're expecting good things from him, that's the reason why we got him and I really think he's got everything to produce what he produced in South America."

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