In the 2017/18 season, not a lot went right with West Ham. They were still experiencing adjustment issues as they were not yet accustomed to their new home in Stratford. The defense was leaking goals, the midfield was being overrun, and the attack could not find any rhythm, despite the additions of Javier Hernandez and Marko Arnautovic. Eventually, Bilic was sacked and replaced by the underwhelming appointment of David Moyes. Moyes’s job was simple: just keep West Ham in the Premier League, no matter what you have to do. Moyes did just that, albeit not in the most exciting fashion. He resorted to a back 5, sitting back, relying on mistakes from opposing teams to gain any sort of advantage in the game. There was no excitement, little joy, and overall discontent among the fans. Despite all this, Moyes succeeded and kept West Ham up, but arguably his biggest success was his transformation of Marko Arnautovic from a sulking winger to a potent, clinical striker whose goals kept West Ham in the league and elevated Arnautovic to cult hero status among all West Ham fans. Now, Moyes is gone, Manuel Pellegrini is in and after this past season and all the trouble Arnautovic went through due to interest from China and a drop of form in the second half of the season, the question is can West Ham rely on Arnautovic?
The 2018/19 season was supposed to feature Arnautovic as the main man for West Ham, despite the signings of Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko. He was even put on penalties in an effort to make him one of the top scoring players in the league. He started off the season well, scoring three in the first five games, most notably a great goal at Everton that rounded off an amazing performance. Everything clicked for Arnautovic in that game: he was quick, alert, and looked a class above almost every other player on the field. It was an Arnautovic performance like many had seen the previous season, but this time it occurred early in the season, giving fans hope that he could maintain this level for the whole season.
This wasn’t to be. He went on a long dry spell, culminating in a period of 15 games without a goal before ending the season well as West Ham’s top scorer, becoming only the fourth player in West Ham history to have back-to-back 10+ goal seasons. He’s shown he still has the quality to be a top PL striker. Despite not scoring for 15 games this past season, he still finished as West Ham’s top scorer. Even though West Ham is targeting Maxi Gomez as the main striking option, that really doesn’t have to be the priority. Arnautovic is still a brilliant player. He’s quick, strong, and a great finisher. He can play as either a target man to hold the ball up and wait for his teammates, or he can run in behind a defense and give his teammates the option to play balls in behind the defensive line. Not only that, he can play on either wing and deliver a killer cross for another player arriving. He’s also much more than a striker. He can create chances, as shown by his providing four assists the past season. He looks to pass as much as he looks to shoot, and his overall teamplay complements Manuel Pellegrini’s system well. As a West Ham fan, I’d be excited at the signing of Maxi Gomez, but I do not think we should be so quick to replace Arnautovic now. He still has a lot to prove to us, and I think he has the willingness to do so.
Written By @JoshBathtub