Stoke City are seventh in the Premier League, only one place away from European football. Surprised?
Perhaps you are, but the Potters have been creeping towards the top end of the Premier League for weeks now and they have given them every chance of grabbing a last-gasp Europa League place.
And they owe it to a certain few individuals in particular, but none more so than forward Marko Arnautovic, who has been key for them this campaign.
The Austrian signed for Stoke back in 2013 and he failed to have a huge breakthrough upon his arrival, but this season he has kicked into a world of his own. Ten goals in 31 games has helped push Stoke towards the right end of the table.
Whilst the same old names grab the headlines though, Arnautovic has plodded along, doing his thing and helping Stoke push on without being in the limelight. Which leads some to ask, why hasn’t the Austrian international attracted more public attention?
Again, part of it has been the magic of Leicester City, etc. Whilst the majority of neutral football fans have been cooing over the Foxes’ attempts to win the Premier League, teams like Stoke have been widely ignored.
But Arnautovic has every right to be in the limelight as much as his Premier League co-stars. What does he bring to the Potters that he could potentially add to someone else’s squad?
Firstly, he has untold passion. Despite a slightly difficult-to-control temperament, Arnautovic is an extremely passionate footballer who wears his heart on his sleeve. Take this to a side like Arsenal, for example. They seem to be lacking some battle and fight right now, and their defeat to Swansea in the week proved that.
If you added the Austrian to the Gunners, they would have a mean, up-for-it player in their ranks. He doesn’t hold back and sometimes his passionate approach can win you games, and bring out moments of extreme brilliance.
He’s also extremely versatile. He can play as an out-and-out striker or as a winger, which is an extreme coup for the Potters, and has proved effective for them on a number of occasions this term.
Having the ability to play the robust striker role and as a winger is very important in today’s game and Mark Hughes has been able to work between Bojan, Arnautovic and Diouf as central forward players this season – a big part of Stoke’s success.
But all of these skills and qualities will, one day, be recognised by potential suitors. He’s played in some of the top leagues in Europe for the likes of Werder Bremen, Inter Milan and FC Twente and that has really reflected in his play.
If he was to make a move, it would be pretty damning for Stoke. But if he can keep up his good form and alongside his team-mates, keep getting good results, the Potters could make the Europa League – and then, why would he leave?