Marko Arnautovic has been a star player for West Ham since his arrival in July 2017. His steady rise in form has silenced critics, who were skeptical of the Austrian who scored just five goals in his final season at Stoke City.
He has since scored 16 times in 46 appearances in all competitions, playing a crucial role in West Ham avoiding relegation last season. His conversion from winger to striker by David Moyes was so effective that Arnautovic even won the club’s internal Hammer of the Year award.
Such performances, however, do not go unnoticed. Some top clubs reportedly expressed interest in signing the Austrian last summer, with this interest becoming more and more realistic as time goes on.
Arnautovic has managed to grab five goals and an assist in 11 appearances so far this season, making it hard for critics to refute his agent’s statement regarding his future: “Someone like him should not be trying to avoid relegation but challenging for European spots.”
Arnautovic has remained tight-lipped regarding his future, saying he his only concentrating on putting in the performances for West Ham. Former Hammers striker Carlton Cole told Sky Sports he doesn’t see Arnautovic leaving the club: “Do you know what, he’s happy at this club. I don’t think he’s looking actively to go and leave. He’s loved here.”
While many West Ham fans will want to believe their former striker, Arnautovic and his agent’s statements tell a different story.
With all the interest surrounding Arnautovic, two clubs seem to be ahead in the race for the Austrian’s signature: Chelsea and Manchester United. While both clubs would be able to lay down the money for such a move, it remains to be seen which club would best be suited for the forward.
Chelsea have not been able to adequately replace Diego Costa, with Alvaro Morata never really finding his form to put away goals week in, week out. While Olivier Giroud has proven that he has the quality for a top six Premier League club, the Frenchman has struggled with consistency.
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With a possible Arnautovic arrival, some of the pressure on Eden Hazard to deliver might be lifted and a fresh face to take on the mantle in Chelsea’s front line could prove beneficial to Maurizio Sarri’s title aspirations.
Jose Mourinho might be looking to revitalise his Manchester United strike force in January in order to challenge for a top four spot, having slipped to 7th place in recent weeks. During his more recent interviews, the Portuguese manager criticised his young players, including Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw, for showing a lack of maturity on the pitch.
At 29, Arnautovic definitely brings experience, even with his history of attitude problems. United’s big money signing Romelu Lukaku has also struggled to find the form he displayed during his first eight matches for the Red Devils, with the Belgian having lost his starting spot as a result.
Arnautovic could fill the gap and take some of the pressure off Rashford, giving the Englishman a little more leeway.
According to the Mirror last week, Mourinho is prepared to offer West Ham around £50million. That would hand the Hammers a considerable profit on a player they signed for £25m just 18 months ago.
However, despite the 29-year-old seemingly being a good fit for Mourinho’s Red Devils, there is still no guarantee the Hammers will allow their most important player to leave midway through a season, especially during a period in which another relegation battle isn’t out of the question just yet.