Is former Nottingham Forest man Michail Antonio good enough for an England Euro 2016 place?
After a summer move to West Ham from Nottingham Forest, Michail Antonio would have aimed to establish himself as a Premier League footballer this season.
However having put in a collection of match-winning displays for his new club, each passing game is bringing about more talk for an England call up to Euro 2016.
Having collected three wins in as many games, the Hammers have somewhat crept up on the top four, having been handily placed throughout the season.
A lot of credit must go to the former non-league man for those wins, as he scored both goals in 1-0 wins against Sunderland and Tottenham, before following up with the first on Saturday against Everton as Slaven Bilic’s men stunned Goodison Park to storm back in the final 12 minutes to win 3-2.
Antonio’s naturally direct style has been a perfect fulcrum to the guile of other Hammers players, as he shows a constant willingness to get into the oppositions box and make himself a threat.
Forest fans would attest to Antonio’s goal scoring ability, as he struck up a handy partnership with Britt Assombalonga after the pair signed in the summer of 2014.
Despite not breaking into the first team immediately this term, Antonio has shown a persistence and willingness to work for his chance - a quality often lost on a lot of professional players.
Beginning the season down the pecking order at the Boleyn Ground, Antonio has taken his opportunity and is now one of Bilic’s key players.
Considering that Antonio’s first goal for the Hammers came on December 28 - a bizarre rebound off his body to deflect over the keeper against Southampton, seven goals has been an excellent return. Amazingly all seven have come in victories.
The goal against Sunderland showed that he is not just a power player.
He stole the ball from the Sunderland defender, burst through two players into the box and cleverly arced his finish into the bottom corner with his left foot - the Homer Simpson celebration was probably on par with the Southampton goal in terms of abnormal things to see on a football pitch.
Both headers in the following games against Tottenham and Everton were powered into the net giving the goalkeepers no chance.
Looking ahead to his prospects for England he seems to tick a lot of boxes - especially when you consider his current competition in the wide areas.
He has an excellent and selfless work-rate which Hodgson would do well to employ in tournament football, where historically England do not dominate the ball. He is a flexible and has been deployed at right-back at times during his run in the team, filling in well and using his pace and power to good effect.
Hodgson will have his eyes on certain players to fill his quota, as he often is criticized for.
Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain usually make the squad, whilst Hodgson continues to pick Andros Townsend even though he had been forgotten domestically until his recent switch to Newcastle. Raheem Sterling is a certainty to make the squad, whilst he is likely to be joined by Theo Walcott.
The age-old question of England not selecting players on form will rise again, as all the aforementioned players have spent a lot of time injured this season, or simply not impressed consistently when they have played. Mark Albrighton, who has been an absolute revelation under Claudio Ranieri at Leicester this term is another player who would have an excellent claim for a place based on form.
The same questions can be asked for Danny Drinkwater and Mark Noble, both enjoying the best seasons of their careers and commanding games from central midfield.
Antonio would certainly be a wildcard selection based on his relatively short time in the Premier League, but his consistency and raw attributes make him difficult to ignore.
Coupled with a rampaging Jamie Vardy the two would offer a direct threat on the counter attack.
Whether Hodgson can find space for the Leicester forward is another question, as Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney will both be expected to start in a fully fit team.
Tactically, Antonio has been part of a 4-3-3 at West Ham, a formation similar to England as they often play with a lone striker with a number 10 behind.
As part of the three-pronged attack he has not shirked his defensive responsibilities and if England can progress to the knockout stages, Antonio’s ability to track and defend against fullbacks could prove helpful.
The likes of Albrighton, Antonio and Vardy may not be first choices for England, but they do offer an alternative option to approach games.
Tournaments continue to slip past England, with the national team often suffering the same dismal fate.
Whilst this squad does have a few younger players in it, perhaps now would be the chance for Hodgson to trust the players at the likes of Leicester and West Ham, who have played without fear this season and shown the way English football should be played.