The Definite List of Replacements for Marko Arnautovic
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 15 January 2019 at 7:03pm
The Definite List of Replacements for Marko Arnautovic
An unorthodox or independent-minded person
See; Marko Arnautovic
Written by: Jamie Griffith @JGriffithJourno
When Marko Arnautvoic first arrived in East London for a then club-record-fee £24 million, the move was met with a lot of criticism from West Ham fans before he had even kicked a ball. Arnautovic has always been a source of trouble throughout his career and Hammers fans began fearing an expensive flop when the powerful winger struggled to settle in London. The Austrian was lacking tactical awareness, looked senseless and was simply disinterested.
Fast-forward 18 months from Arnautovic’s arrival and he is the subject of a £45 million bid from Chinese side Shaghai SIPG. His incredible transformation from an inconsistent winger to a ruthless striker has been meteoric. His form following David Moyes’ appointment in December 2016 has been tremendous, with the big Austrian amassing 27 goal involvements in 2018 alone. Under the Scotsman’s tutelage, ‘Arnie’ became the catalyst in a struggling West Ham side with his goals and assists in the 17/18 season almost single-handily guaranteeing the Irons’ Premier League status for the following campaign.
But the forward was so much more than a regular goalscorer. Complimenting his thunderous shot and obvious physical strength is the work rate of a midfielder; a footballing brain, meaning he is capable of finding space and picking passes and a ferocious burst of pace over short distances which is impressive given his huge 6’4 frame. Arnautovic would lead the press and track back continuously, whilst his personality made him a leader on the pitch and influential off of it. West Ham have a colossal task ahead of them should he force a move away, which is looking increasingly likely since his ‘farewell wave’ to fans in the 1-0 victory over Arsenal on Saturday.
Arnautovic was a deep-lying forward who had an almost unique skill-set due to his engine and willingness to defend from the front, which is why, when analysing the replacements, they will be given a similarity rating (in relation to Arnautovic) and an overall rating (how they would fare as a replacement striker taking into account skill level and price).
Luka Jovic – Eintracht Frankfurt (On loan from SL Benfica)
Jovic is the name floating around Twitter as the perfect replacement for Arnautovic with his 12 goals and 3 assists in just 15 matches in the Bundesliga this season being mightily impressive. The Serbian forward is only 21, looks to be a natural finisher and is ambidextrous; scoring 6 goals with his left foot this season and 4 with his right. However, there are some drawbacks. Firstly, Benfica are expected to ask for at least £40 million for his services, whilst being on loan at Frankfurt further confuses things as they have a £10 million first reserve on the striker so any deal would rely on Benfica recalling their up-and-coming star. Whilst his goal record is impressive and he does look like a well-rounded striker, his statistics are skewed somewhat by a game against Fortuna Dusseldorf where he scored 5 goals; suggesting his record is unsustainable.
Potential Cost: £40 Million
Similarity Rating: 4/10
Replacement Rating: 7.5/10
Luka Jovic looks promising, but unproven. He is a natural number 9 and fairly dissimilar to Arnautovic. To gamble on him in January would be a huge risk and pretty reckless as this is his breakthrough season.
Sebastien Haller – Eintracht Frankfurt
Every strike partnership has a goalscorer and a creator, so in Frankfurt’s case Haller is the creator; as evidenced by his league-high 8 assists this campaign. Yet despite this, the powerful Frenchman only has 3 goals less than his partner. At 24, Haller is yet to hit his prime but has all the traits of Europe’s best strikers. Luis Suarez, Robert Lewandowksi and Harry Kane are 3 of the world’s best number 9’s despite none of them being blessed with blistering pace. Instead, their intelligence carries them, finding pockets of space and linking up play with teammates in order to create the best goal-scoring opportunities for themselves or their colleagues. Haller is the same mould of player, capable of leading the line given his 6’3 size or playing in a 2 alongside a poacher; step forward Javier Hernandez.
Potential Cost: £30 Million
Similarity Rating: 9/10
Replacement Rating: 9/10
Sebastien Haller is a powerful number 9, equally capable of creating or scoring at a regular rate much like Arnautovic did last season and it is likely he would be more affordable than other options.
Michy Batshuayi – Valencia (On loan from Chelsea)
A name that must haunt West Ham fans. The Belgian is constantly linked with a move to the London Stadium, even before his move to Chelsea ,where he has not been given a chance to prove his ability. Batshuayi may be struggling at Valencia this season, but so is their whole side. On his day Batshuayi is a confident finisher – but there is a reason he always plays the understudy. At Chelsea, Maurizio Sarri deemed him surplus to requirements due to his inability to link up play effectively in a highly technical system. At West Ham, Arnautovic would regularly drop deep to move possession forward but Batshuayi is just too much of instinctive poacher to add that string to his bow.
Potential Cost: Loan (if Chelsea recall after failed loan spell at Valencia)/£30 – £40 million
Similarity Rating: 2/10
Replacement Rating: 5/10
3 years ago West Ham would have taken Batshuayi in a heartbeat, but it seems his career has somewhat stagnated. As a poacher, the Belgian would excel, but West Ham require so much more than that in their striker.
Aleksander Mitrovic – Fulham
Not as mobile, but much stronger. Not as technical, but more effective in the air. Not Arnautovic, but Mitrovic instead. Fulham’s front-man is a powerhouse and is an absolutely ruthless finisher in front of goal. A menace in the air and capable of bullying defenders into submission, Mitrovic is as close as West Ham will come to finding a like-for-like replacement for their number 7. Whilst Mitrovic is not as fast as ‘Arnie’, he is just as willing to track back to help his side and is another leader from the front which will help the hard-to-please Hammers fan base get behind him. A classic number 9, Mitrovic would be a perfect fit to lead the line; with linking up play or playing in a two also a possibility as shown by Kamara and Schurrle tending to move infield from wide at Fulham this season.
Potential Cost: £50 Million
Similarity Rating: 9/10
Replacement Rating: 8/10
Whilst Mitrovic looks perfect, he can be inconsistent and a high price will be demanded in January due to Fulham’s relegation struggle so as an immediate replacement this looks unlikely.
Moussa Marega – Porto
Somewhat unknown in England, but loved by football hipsters, Marega is an enigma to many. The Malian is extremely strong and physical, much like Arnautovic, but due to the levels these attributes reach, he is nearer to West Ham’s nemesis Romelu Lukaku. Whilst 29 league goals in just 50 games is impressive, he does currently play in Portugal, a league of a notoriously poor standard. Marega would certainly be a risk and his pace could prove a deadly weapon but with 5 goals in 6 Champions League games this season, Porto would demand a large fee in January as they see him as the talisman in any possible deep run during tournament this season.
Potential Cost: £25 – £40 million
Similarity Rating: 6.5/10
Replacement Rating: 4/10
Marega symbolises the unknown. Taking a risk on an unproven talent would be a very West Ham move (see; Calleri, Savio or Hugill) but due to Arnautovic’s importance in the side, replacing him must be done cautiously so this move looks unlikely.
Callum Wilson – Bournemouth
Whilst Jovic is the fans’ pick, Wilson is considered to be the club’s choice. The English striker has been in mesmerising form this season and has shown versatility by playing as a lone striker or accompanying Josh King in a two and with Hammers Boss Manuel Pellegrini experimenting with a 4-1-4-1, 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 at points this season, this flexibility is likely what is attracting West Ham towards Wilson. 9 goals and 5 assists in the league for a struggling Bournemouth side is exciting and his speed is undeniably impressive. But there are far too many drawbacks for Wilson to be the number one choice. He is English and the starting striker for a team that is both fighting relegation and has the ambition to challenge West Ham for the top-half, therefore his price will be inflated and simply ludicrous. Meanwhile the striker is only taking just over 2 shots a game whilst Arnautovic, Jovic and Haller all take over 3 a game suggesting their movement is actually better than Wilson’s, despite this being a large part of his game.
Potential Cost: £50 Million +
Similarity Rating: 6/10
Replacement Rating: 6/10
Wilson is fast and exciting and could be a success but interest from bigger clubs, the price tag and recurring injuries make this transfer a real non-starter.
Mario Balotelli – OGC Nice
If Marko Arnautovic is a maverick then Mario Balotelli is the devil. Trouble follows the Italian like a shadow, but his talent in undeniable; even if he has not nurtured it. The former Golden Boy is enduring a tough time at Nice under new boss Patrick Vieira, despite netting 18 in 28 for the French outfit just last season. If Balotelli can rediscover this form then he may be worth the gamble. On his day he is strong, fast and a cold-blooded finisher. He is a polar opposite to Arnautovic in terms of work rate, but he is still an excellent finisher so with Anderson, Nasri and Lanzini creating numerous chances he may be enough to see West Ham through until the end of the season at least. But with Pellegrini being a composed character he may not have the authority to overrule Balotelli which could disrupt the dressing room.
Potential Cost: Loan
Another Maverick could spell bad news so while Balotelli is quality, it is only when he wants to be. This has the potential to be a savvy short-term move, but it is equally as likely that Super Mario could flop horrendously.
Considering the above, here’s the recommended shopping list for Arnautovic’s replacement – in the order the club should go for:
But is anyone missing? Giroud on Loan if Higuain does move to Chelsea? Take a risk on Piatek? Let Jamie know below, on Twitter or Facebook.
Jamie Griffith @JGriffithJourno