West Ham United manager David Moyes has played down and cast aside the history between star player Marko Arnautovic and his former team Stoke City ahead of the teams’ Monday night meeting at the London Stadium in the Premier League.
Arnautovic, who has managed nine PL goals in Claret & Blue this season, left the bet365 Stadium on rather unsavoury terms in a £25 million move in last summer’s transfer window.
When the Hammers travelled to face the Staffordshire side in the league in April, the Austria International played a key role, scoring the second in a 0-3 victory and controversially celebrating in front of his former fans.
This time around, his gaffer Moyes is only focused on Arnautovic continuing his red-hot form, speaking in his pre-Stoke City press conference at Rush Green Training Ground on Friday afternoon when asked about whether Arnautovic was looking forward to the matchup.
“I don’t really care if Marko is looking forward to it or not. I am just concerned that Marko continues doing the business as he’s been doing, and it wouldn’t matter if it was Stoke or somebody else,” explained the former Manchester United boss.
“So long as he keeps doing the business, that’s all we can be interested in and if he can do it against them, great.
“When he is playing like this, Marko is very good and very good to work with and I have to say I hope it continues because he has been really important to the team.
“Without him, it could be very different, but that’s football and that’s why the Club paid £20 million. It was a great signing by the Club and we saw the potential in what he could do and I’ve got to say that Marko himself has stepped up to the plate.
“When you do that, you have to keep your standards up because everyone is watching you and the team are looking for you to have a big impact in every game.”
Arnautovic goes into the visit of his ex-side having scored or assisted a total of three goals in his last two outings, netting twice in the crucial win over Southampton and assisting Javier Hernandez’s equaliser in last Sunday’s draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Upon leaving Stoke last July, the temperamental forward was said to have clashed with then Potters manager Mark Hughes, with whom he looked to have engaged in some form of confrontation during the aforementioned Saints triumph.
After he scored his first goal against the league’s 19th-placed team at London Stadium, a close-range finish past Alex McCarthy, Arnautovic ran in the direction of the technical area shouting at his once manager, who he also appeared to have words with on the touchline at the bet365 before Christmas.
When playing in red and white stripes, the former Inter Milan star was a popular figure amongst the club’s supporters, much like the present in East London, scoring close to 25 goals in over 100 appearances with Stoke.
However, now, he will be looking to get one over Paul Lambert’s men in Stratford, but undoubtedly need the help of his teammates to do so, they have been dealt major injury boost.
The trio of Andy Carroll, who hasn’t featured since midway through the opening month of the year with an ankle injury and midfielder and defender Manuel Lanzini and James Collins, who have been missing since the most recent International break, are back in training.
All three are being tipped to return to the matchday squad on Monday evening and here is what Moyes had to say on the matter, speaking in the same press conference three days ago.
“He (Carroll) ‘s in training. He’s not played for eleven weeks. We’ll monitor him and see how he is. Manu Lanzini and James Collins have also been out, but getting Andy back will be a big plus for us because we all know what he can do. Is he going to be ready? I’m not sure”.
The Scotsman continued “Manu and James have both done some training today. I’m hoping there is a good chance they’ll be involved on Monday.”
In other injury news, Aaron Cresswell is fine to feature after coming off injured in the second-half in West London last weekend, however, long-termers Sam Byram, Winston Reid, Pedro Obiang and Michail Antonio remain side-lined.
The Irons go into the key matchup just six points from the fabled safety mark of 40 points and with four of the PL’s top six still left to play, will see the game as no less than a must-win.
Huddersfield Town’s Saturday afternoon victory over Watford meant that Moyes’ boys did fall a place to 15th in the table, although keeping six points between them and the bottom three with a game-in-hand.
Things are looking a little more desperate for the Potters as they firmly occupy a spot in the dreaded drop zone, 19th and without the liberty of an extra-match-in-hand.
Six points stand between them and the closest safety in the form of 17th-placed Swansea City and one would feel, it’s now or never time if City want to extend their 10-year spell in the Premier League to 11.
But, Arnautovic and co will know that the Potters can still pack a punch and be wary of the threat that they may pose under the lights in Stratford, although the Austrian will certainly be a man on a personal mission for the second time this campaign.
You can follow the visit of Stoke City to the London Stadium to face West Ham United in a crucial relegation six-pointer right here on MooreThanJustAClub with our Live Blog, featuring live and exclusive build-up, text commentary and reaction from the clash, live from the Press Box of the London stadium and beginning at 6 PM BST this evening.