Recent rumours and comments from his agent, coupled with a farewell routine as he was substituted during last Saturday’s Premier League victory over Arsenal, have got West Ham United fans feeling sweaty about the future of Marko Arnautovic.
With numerous offers on the table from Chinese Super League team Shanghai SIPG and the striker wanting the club to accept, it’s looking like Arnautovic will be leaving East London in this transfer window. But could Manuel Pellegrini’s Hammers survive without their talisman and reigning Hammer of the Year? Find out in our statistical tactical analysis.
Arnautovic’s Hammers record this season
For the first phase of our analysis, we’re going to be taking an in-depth look at Arnautovic’s Hammers record this season, with the help of the below image provided by our good friends over at wyscout.com.
The graphic contains the 79-cap Austria international’s key attacking average stats in a West Ham shirt from 2018/2019 thus far in all competitive competitions. These will form the basis of our analysis of his performance this term.
The star nurtured into a centre-forward role from a winger’s role by David Moyes halfway through last season headed into the season looking to build on his tally in that campaign. From December 2017, Arnautovic managed 11 goals and six assists on his way to picking up numerous club awards, this was his tally for the season.
As we can see, this time around, at the halfway stage, the boisterous frontman has averaged an impressive 0.53 goals per 90 minutes, all of these stats being per 90 minutes. The mini heatmap on the left of the image displays how Pellegrini has continued to use him as a striker, often a lone one, in the way Moyes did before him.
His average of more than a strike every two full matches is coupled by 0.13 assists, manufactured by his two assists this season. They have been complemented by seven goals, six in the PL and one in the Emirates FA Cup. Not bad considering he has missed different parts of the season with different injuries.
That tally has only been bettered by one other player at the club so far and it’s the man starting to rival him as the Irons’ key man, club-record signing Felipe Anderson on eight league notches.
Arnautovic’s danger to any opposing defence, with this season being no different, is conveyed in his expected goals rating of 0.43 and an eye-catching average of over three shots per 90 minutes. Nearly half of which find the target.
The physical hitman signed from Stoke City for a then-club-record fee in November 2017 has continued to show his creative side when fit under Pellegrini, too. This is evidenced by 1.25 shot assists and 1.52 crosses, though he will want to improve on the accuracy of them.
The confident 2018 Austrian Footballer of the Year always likes to take on his man and run with the ball with over three dribbles per 90 minutes and 72.7% of them being completed. Arnautovic is also never one to shy away from confrontation, especially with defenders, 11.35 defensive duels per full match and 4.28 touches in the opposition box speak for themselves.
As you can see, Arnautovic finishes with three identical stats, a superb low 0.66 offsides on average and two figures that fail to do his influence this term justice. Just 0.66 progressive runs and 0.66 fouls suffered.
Overall, from these stats alone, it’s not difficult to work out the impact Arnautovic has had on the Hammers in 18/19, picking up where he left off the campaign before. The figures are up there with some of the best in the division and it’s precious for a team in ninth place to have a player that can rival some of the forwards of the “Big Six.”
However, as costly as his loss would be, it seems that Pellegrini and his staff are already preparing to dip into the January transfer market for Arnautovic’s replacement, should the 29-year-old depart before 31 January.
In the last few days, a front-runner striker to make the move to London Stadium appears to have emerged and he, like most of the targets, also plies his trade in the Premier League.
It’s a name members of the Claret & Blue Army know all too well, mainly for his hat-trick against the Irons for their next opponent in the league, AFC Bournemouth, in a 3-4 defeat at Upton Park in August 2015.
Callum Wilson is still with the Cherries and has netted nine league goals this season under Eddie Howe, the joint-sixth most in the PL. Chelsea are also said to be interested, however.
Many claim that the England international, having forced his way into Gareth Southgate’s team this term, would be an upgrade on Arnautovic, mainly due to his age of 26, three years younger. And better form in recent months.
Serbian international centre-forward Aleksandar Mitrovic of Fulham (14 goals for club and country this campaign) is reportedly also being considered. He appears to be another realistic option.
Like Mitrovic, the likes of Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud, Sevilla’s Wissam Ben Yedder and Krzysztof Piatek of Genoa have been linked in the past and are also being mentioned in the same breath as the Hammers this time around. It’s clear that the departure of Arnautovic would not render the club without options in terms of bringing in a replacement.
Players that could step up from within
There is, of course, the option for Pellegrini of looking internally rather than externally to fill the void that will be left when the inevitable happens, which is likely to be sooner rather than later, if it does transpire.
Andy Carroll and Lucas Perez are the other two senior fit out-and-out strikers in the squad, however, when you look at the stats, you would understand any reluctance in looking them to take Arnautovic’s starting place.
30-year-old Perez has been inconsistent since signing from Arsenal on Deadline Day back in the summer and currently out-of-form, with just four in 13 in West Ham colours. Meanwhile, Carroll scored for the first time since April after another long-term injury earlier in the month and is viewed as more of an impact substitute by Pellegrini.
With seven goals and one assist in six games for the club’s under-23s in the Premier League 2, there is a school of thought Portuguese youngster Xande Silva is worthy of a full promotion to senior level and could be a viable option. But his inexperience is perhaps too much for the huge responsibility for the rest of the season.
Whereas, Manuel Lanzini returns from injury at the end of the month and can certainly step up in terms of presence, see the departure of Dimitri Payet, but is a central attacking midfielder. Michail Antonio and Grady Diangana have featured up front in recent times, though would be makeshift solutions. Again, options, and existing ones, are not lacking for the club.
In conclusion, our statistics-driven tactical analysis today has discovered that whilst the departure of Arnautovic would be a monumental blow as the East Londoners look to keep their momentum in surging towards the top six, they could survive without him.
If the club are able to find a proper replacement this month, they may even stumble across a player much younger and much better than the ageing Arnautovic in the long-term. The Hammers would undoubtedly be fine in terms of survival without his goals and huge presence, but if he goes and no signing can be made and no one can step up from within to the same standard. They can kiss their chances of European football next season under Pellegrini, goodbye.
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