Can Marko Arnautovic mature at West Ham?

West Ham United

Last week we analyzed João Mario’s potential impact on the Hammers’ playing style. Today we turn our focus on another ex-Inter player, who struggled to shine in the Italian league and found success first in Germany with Werder Bremen and subsequently in the English Premier League: Marko Arnautovic.

Arnauotivic proved to be a very versatile player both in his playing style and tactical positioning. He started off playing as a striker in his early years at Dutch side FC Twente. Following a rather unsuccessful and limiting spell at Inter, the Serbian-Austrian player displayed all his class and talent in the German Bundesliga. Throughout this time, Marko was not only played as a striker, but started experimenting with unique winger roles in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation and occasionally he was even employed as a centre attacking midfield. Ultimately, these experiences allowed the Austrian international to develop as an all-rounded player with unique finishing from his striker days, agile and surprising runs attained as a winger and technical abilities fostered while playing as a creative attacking midfielder. All in all, Arnautovic entered the Premier League in the summer of 2013 with good prospects of succeeding a Stoke City, even though past disciplinary and character issues had slumped his potential explosion in his football career.

Marko is a player with a rather tall frame (1.93m) yet he definitely does not lack technical ability and is able to use his height while combining it with unique skillsets. The combination of his physical, technical and tactical (versatility) abilities make him an ideal player for the Premier League, a league characterized greatly by a varying balance of players with those three identifiable features, and most importantly, for West Ham.

Arnautovic compliments the other attacking players of the Hammers rather well. Lanzini is particularly technical and skilful but lacks physical presence; that is where Marko comes in. On the other hand, João Mario is a stronger presence on the field compared to the Argentinian but does not possess extreme technical abilities and Arnautovic complements on that aspect as well. Furthermore, compared to Chicharito, Marko is taller and stronger so he could also be employed as a striker in situations where the Mexican may suffer from his inferior physical stance. Overall, his transfer to West Ham allows more variety and choice to the newly appointed David Moyes and his past experience and development across the Bundesliga and the Premier League in different positions will allow him to adapt his playing style depending on how he is employed by the East London side.

Although the Austrian international started his career as a striker, in recent years he has been playing more consistently as a winger, to make use of his unique mix of physical and technical ability and overpowering the defenders he faces. His natural goal scoring instincts help him in both his positioning and football vision. He thrives both in tight and wider areas: utilizing his technique, he dribbles around defenders in small areas and using his speed and strength he can easily take advantage of the space created by his runs, when available. As we know, West Ham are not having the best season thus far, yet the most interesting and satisfying moments have come with top performances from the Austrian when playing as a winger, in tandem with Lanzini/João Mario and Chicharito.

Overall, Arnautovic has shown signs of his maturity in terms of his football playing style: he has managed to perfect his exploitation of his physical and technical characteristic that give him the edge over fullbacks and slower central defenders and the duo/trio combinations with Chicharito and Lanzini have benefitted West Ham greatly. Nevertheless, it is not that simple to judge the Austrian’s performance for the Hammers thus far. His inconsistency is still limiting his overall impact for the team: he fluctuates between Man of the Match games and weeks where he is barely noticeable on the pitch. While compared to his older days he has certainly improved, this still remains an issue and West Ham find themselves having to deal with this every few weeks. In addition to that, Marko has seen a fair share of bookings throughout his career. His misconduct was the primary reason, alongside the inconsistency of his performances, that limited his football outburst. In the few months he’s been at West Ham, he has already been sent off once directly as well as seeing yellow three times, mostly for nerve-caused reactions or fouls. Overall, the East London Hammers find themselves with a strong and intelligent player that still has to perfect his mentality and dedication to his football improvement.

In conclusion, the Austrian international has the potential to really make a big impact and difference at West Ham. He is already a fan favourite and his impressive stats only support this. The ability to play as a striker (duo with Chicharito with Lanzini as #10) or as a winger (where he shines more) makes him a valuable asset for Moyes. The new partnership developed with January-signing João Mario only enhances his strongpoints and suggests a more prominent utilization of a 3-4-3 for the remainder of the season for the Hammers. Nevertheless, his constant ups and downs throughout the league, his lack of frustration management and his personal consideration that he is better than anyone else on the team, make him a liability at times. It is extremely important, for the upcoming delicate games that West Ham have to face, to dose properly his playing time, combine his talent with that of Lanzini and João Mario and potentially work on perfecting his weaknesses, as he finds himself at the maturing point of his career. Given previous results, playing him in tandem with Chicharito and Lanzini as a winger with a solid midfield composed by Kouyate and Noble may allow for the best result.

About the Author

Federico Maroli
Italian, raised around the world. Currently based in the Netherlands. I am an extremely passionate football fan and follow everything up close. I love analyzing tactical aspects of the game and hope to share this passion with you!