Manager Manuel Pellegrini confirmed in his pre-match press conference on Friday that Marko Arnautovic was once again, fully fit, having missed respective league and Carabao Cup matches against Chelsea and Macclesfield Town, with a knee problem.
The Austrian International first felt the issue when scoring the Hammers’ third during the 1-3 victory away at Everton, West Ham’s first win of the term in the PL, being substituted off shortly after and side-lined since.
Today, with the help of tactical analysis and statistics, we are going to display just how vital it is for the irons to have Arnautovic back to full fitness and how much of a threat he can pose to United, proving how his return will increase their chances of picking up three valuable points.
West Ham Without Arnautovic
Firstly, we are going to take an in-depth look at just how much the East Londoners have missed Arnautovic this time around, in the nearly two weeks he has spent out of action.
Arnautovic’s injury was never serious, that was clear from the beginning and it was always going to be touch-and-go whether or not he would be fit to face Maurizio Sarri’s men last Sunday.
As it turned out, he wasn’t and he was replaced in the starting Xl by Michail Antonio, who would go onto miss not one, but two vital first-half chances, ones that many argued Arnautovic would have scored.
With Andriy Yarmolenko also squandering a late guilt-edged opportunity, the forward’s absence was believed to be the difference between them winning and drawing a match in which they enjoyed the better chances.
While he was dearly missed during the blues clash, even if he was fit, it would have been highly unlikely that Arnautovic would have played any part or been risked against Macclesfield. Anyway, his teammates did a fine job without him, scoring a remarkable eight goals.
Where He Fits Back Into The Team
It is quite obvious to see where Arnautovic will fit back into the Irons starting Xl after his two-game absence, within the 4-3-3 formation that has worked so well for Pellegrini, in recent weeks.
As he is fit to start, he will be a straight swap for Antonio, despite his goal in midweek and the Englishman will have to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench.
Pellegrini is very much expected to go with the exact same team and formation that saw the East Londoners leave Goodison Park with three points, which sees Arnautovic acting as the middle man in a front three, Yarmolenko to the right of him and club-record signing Felipe Anderson, to the left.
His Record This Season So Far
Up until his injury, “Arnie” was displaying the kind of form that saw him pick up the Hammer of the Year award last season, in his first season in Claret & Blue, following a then-club-record move from Stoke City.
Whilst most of his teammates failed to reach the height of their capabilities, Arnautovic was very much leading the way, in more ways than one as he skippered the side for two matches, in the absence of Mark Noble.
Prior to kick-off on Merseyside, he had scored both the Hammers’ 2018/2019 Premier League goals, and by the time he left the field, he had either scored or assisted four out of the five.
That is still the case now with the Irons’ not scoring in the PL, in his most recent absence, after he laid on an assist for Yarmolenko in the early stages of the Everton win, before grabbing a goal for himself.
The 29-year-old has picked up from where he left off at the end of 2017/2018, when he netted 10 and assisted six, from early December until the end of the season, his contribution helping to keep David Moyes’ men afloat.
After his display against the Toffees, only Mo Salah had been involved in more PL goals in 2018 than Arnautovic. At the peak of his special powers, his importance to the West Ham cause is second to none, expect him to be at the top of his game, once again, when things get underway in East London.
His Record Vs Manchester United
The final part of our analysis will look at the way Arnautovic has performed against United over the years, he already knows their manager, Mourinho, having worked with him at Inter Milan.
Since arriving on the English football scene with stoke in summer 2013, the Austria man has played against United on 11 occasions, scoring two goals in the process.
He will have mixed memories of facing off with them for a number of reasons, as his first goal in English football came at Old Trafford, in the Potters’ 3-2 defeat during his maiden season, the 2013/2014 campaign.
The Red Devils were the opponents as he made his Hammers debut, also, although this particular trip to Manchester wasn’t so close, resulting in a 4-0 opening-day-of-the-season loss for Slaven Bilic’s men.
In conclusion, our analysis has found that the return of Arnautovic will be of paramount importance to Pellegrini and his team, providing them with a major edge as they look to take advantage of a vulnerable United side.
There will be added incentive for the Austrian attacker, the chance to get revenge on his former manager and while Mourinho may know what to expect from Arnautovic, it won’t make the job of the visiting defence of handling him any easier. He will pose a huge threat, one that could just make it a very special Saturday lunchtime for the Claret & Blue Army.