West Ham United attacker Marko Arnautovic has collected the club’s Goal of the Month award for March for his second strike in the key Premier League victory over Southampton at the London Stadium on Saturday 31 March.
The goal, an impressive first-time volley from a pin-point Arthur Masuaku cross, arrived in first-half added-time in the relegation six-pointer and put the Hammers 3-0 up, all but securing a crucial three points.
Arnautovic’s strike was his ninth league notch of the season, all of which have come since the start of December and in the reign of David Moyes’ in East London.
Having netted braces against AFC Bournemouth and the Saints and single goals against Chelsea, ex-club Stoke City, Newcastle United, Huddersfield Town and Watford, he is comfortably within the top-20 top-scorers in the Top-Flight.
What’s more, West Ham have only lost one match that the Austria International has scored in and he has also set-up four goals in that time, winging his way to Hammer of the Year award contention.
The former Inter Milan star has impressed on the International stage too of late with four goals for his nation this season, three of which came in the most recent International break, although Franco Foda’s Austria won’t be at this summer’s FIFA World Cup.
Moyes, who has all but guided the East Londoners to PL safety after they were precariously placed when he arrived back in November 2017, certainly seems to have gotten the best out of Arnautovic.
He has been key to the upturn in form and the survival bid of the Irons, winning countless Man of the Match awards for his non-stop and tiresome performances, and natural eye for goal.
A slight change of position and approach has been the ticket to the partnership between manager (Moyes) and player (Arnautovic), which has blossomed, a contrast from that of the boss who signed him Slaven Bilic.
Instead of being forced out wide, Arnautovic has been deployed in the lone striker role and given free rein to cause as many problems as is necessary, and then some to the opposition defence.
He has certainly done this, time and time again over the last few months, leading the way by one over Javier Hernandez in the race to finish up as the club’s top-scorer for the 2017/2018 season.
However, it’s not just the statistics that impress supporters and pundits alike about the ex-Potter, it’s his swagger and style of play on the pitch, a unique arrogance, grit and determination according to many, that proves a recipe for success on the playing field.
Something Arnautovic particularly enjoys is winding up fans of other teams and ex-managers, as seen with his former boss at the Bet365 Stadium Mark Hughes in the win over Southampton.
This also became apparent when he went back to Staffordshire to face off with the Potters, this time in the colours of Claret & Blue, scoring in a three-goal victory and celebrating with great passion in the faces of the supporters that once adored him.
Now, Moyes’ Hammers are eager to do battle with Stoke again, this time at the London Stadium on Monday night and Arnautovic will certainly be out to get one over his old team once again.
Plenty has changed from the last meeting, with Arnautovic’s form, the team’s fortunes have improved dramatically and fresh from last Sunday’s valuable draw at Stamford Bridge, in which the Austria star assisted Chicharito for the equaliser, the Irons’ predicament is looking a lot better than in December, when they were 19th.
The East Londoners have put six points between themselves and the bottom three and sit 14th with 34 points, three points on the Monday Night Football would surely be enough to all but secure avoiding the drop to the Sky Bet Championship.
Arnautovic spoke to West Ham’s Official Website, WHUFC.com, about the importance of the matchup, how much a win would mean to himself and the team and how they are intending to prepare for it:
“We can make the gap between us and the bottom bigger on Monday so we’re doing everything we can, we just need to concentrate and put in the effort, and I’m sure we will win the game.
“We are training hard and we are keeping ourselves fit. I think over the weekend we will go into the details of how to play against them. We know what we have to do though,” stated the prolific forward.
“A win would be a big step. This game is massive. It’s a big game for us, for the Club, and for the fans. We will go all together on Monday and we will try as hard as we can to get the three points.”
Paul Lambert’s Potters are 19th, a full four points from safety and without the game in hand that some around them possess, just five games remain for the Staffordshire side and this match is being dubbed one of the most important of each team’s season.
So, can the star man Arnautovic help the Hammers to down his old team for the second time this season under the lights in Stratford on Monday night? Find out with us right here on MooreThanJustAClub as we bring you a Live Blog, featuring live and exclusive build-up, text commentary and reaction from the clash, live from the London Stadium Press Box from 6 PM BST.