They say every footballer reaches their prime at some point or another, whether that comes in their early or late career, that one season or two that’s just better than anything else they have ever produced.
Well, in the case of West Ham United’s Austrian marksman Marko Arnautovic, many pundits and fans from throughout the footballing world are predicting the season ahead to be his best.
The likes of Football.London’s West Ham United correspondent Sam Inkersole is among them, expecting the forward to “hit the 20-goal mark,” for the first time in his career this campaign, when speaking to us in tomorrow evening’s edition of the West Ham Matters Podcast.
But, today, we’ve got the statistics and the analysis to back up the views of many and forecast a ground-breaking term for the man who has nearly a century of caps for his nation, using both current and comparative data and stats.
For those of you who aren’t entirely familiar with the forward who joined the Hammers from Stoke City for a then club-record fee last summer, we have provided you with a comprehensive Player Profile below, courtesy of our good friends over at Transfermarkt.
As you can see from the image, the Austria man boasts impressive physical attributes and uses these to his advantage on the pitch, often holding off and bullying defenders when scoring goals.
His height, just shy of six-feet also gives him an aerial advantage over defenders, thus making the winger-turned-striker a threat from crosses and dead-ball situations.
Stereotypically, a player will reach their prime between the ages of 25-30, Arnautovic also fits that criteria nicely and although he has been used as a winger and central-attacking midfielder in his career, last season, which we will touch on later, proved that he is better suited to an out-and-out forward role, there is also the added incentive of a possible new contract if he sends records tumbling in 2018/2019.
Comparison To Previous Seasons
Using Squawka’s Player Comparison Matrix, we have pitted the temperamental former Inter Milan man’s outstanding 2017/2018 campaign against the four Premier League seasons he enjoyed at Stoke before that, to show his steady progression to where he is now in this league.
After Arnautovic swept the Hammer of the Year prize and many others at West Ham’s official Player Awards in May, 17/18 was dubbed Arnautovic strongest season in English football.
But, surprisingly, it only yielded just one of his best overall attacking stats in this analysis, his standout shot accuracy, 65% and the best on that graphic by some distance, only rivalled by the 2016/2017 term in which he achieved 38%.
While 10 goals and six assists in 31 Premier League outings isn’t the most flattering, it must be noted that those goals and assists all came in the final 23 matches of the season, meaning he was involved in 16 strikes in 23 games in the second half of last season.
As we can see from the graphic, Arnautovic first season in the PL was an impressive one, setting his personal record for both total shots (72) and assists (7).
It is also evident that he struggled to live up to that in his second campaign, the only one he hasn’t managed to jot up 30 appearances in, however, since then, things have been more consistent.
For the last three English Top-Flight campaigns, “Arnie” hasn’t fallen below 30 appearances and 2100 minutes, six goals, 60 total shots and 38% accuracy and five assists, surpassing these numbers comfortably in two of the three seasons in question.
These statistics look like they are all building up to something special for Arnautovic and while there may have been a change of manager in East London, from David Moyes to Manuel Pellegrini, five goals in pre-season more than shows off his desire to progress under the veteran Chilean.
In conclusion, what we have discovered through data-driven statistics in our tactical analysis of Arnautovic today is that he has never been better placed to pull his “big season” out of the hat.
Last season, he thrived when Moyes played him as a lone striker, this is also where he is being deployed under Pellegrini in a predicted 4-2-3-1 formation, the stars may have finally aligned for the boisterous centre-forward.