If reports are to be believed, David Moyes is giving serious consideration to offering Marko Arnautovic a return to the club.
Club insider exWHUEmployee has this week claimed the Austrian is willing to take a huge pay cut in order to facilitate a return this summer, while Tutto Mercato Web has recently reported that we’re hopeful of signing him.
Italian news outlet Il Resto del Carlino are also reporting that Arnautovic’s current club, Shanghai Port, are willing to allow the 32-year-old to leave on a free in order to save on his huge wages, believed to be around £400k-a-week.
Now, there’s no doubting Arnautovic’s impact when he was at the club previously. Despite a slow start under Slaven Bilic, failing to score in his first 11 Premier League appearances, the Austria international went on to hit 11 goals in his first season, all of which came when David Moyes arrived for his first spell and then banged in 10 top-flight goals the following campaign.
The impact Moyes had on Arnautovic was clear for all to see, opting to play him in a central role rather than out wide, which is where Bilic was struggling to get any joy out of him. That’s why it’s no surprise Moyes is reportedly keen on bringing him back to London Stadium this summer as he combes the transfer market for effective strikers.
But, and it’s a big but – firstly, is Arnautovic worthy of a return to our great club after the way he forced a move to China and secondly, is he good enough to come back and hit the ground running?
Let’s try and answer both of those questions.
On the first point, the way in which he handled his exit continues to leave a sour taste in the mouths of the fans. He was adored by every single Hammer across the globe and he was the club’s lynchpin. Mark Noble has only recently spoken of how good he was and how much he was liked, but in the end he threw all of that back in our faces and pushed for a move to China, where an eye-watering amount of money was on the table for him.
Noble did defend Arnautovic’s decision to move for money, which he was always going to do, but that still doesn’t make it right. Some will argue you can’t just turn down a life-changing amount of money like that and that he only did it to secure his family’s future. The last time I checked, £100k-a-week, which is what he was on at West Ham at the time, is already a life-changing amount of money. On that wage, he and his family will have already wanted for nothing.
If you’re a multi-millionaire, claiming to move for a life-changing amount of money doesn’t really stack up, not in my book anyway. If I’m way off the mark, perhaps a multi-millionaire footballer can explain it to me.
Money aside, we must not forget that the way in which he forced a move was unforgivable in its own right. The moment interest came in from China, his brother and agent was all over the radio and in the media claiming Arnautovic wanted a move. He was pulled out of a game against Bournemouth because “he wasn’t in the right frame of mind” and then minutes after we crashed out of the FA Cup to AFC Wimbledon, the club announced he’d signed a new deal and he was all over social media claiming that he was staying.
So that’s our best player, missing in a game in which we were dreadful, splashing himself all over social media about how much he wants to stay after he’d been given a brand new and improved contract, days after he pushed for a move away.
Six months later, he was off to China anyway. Unforgivable.
And then there’s the small matter of his ability. We all know what he’s capable of and he’s been scoring for fun in China, too, netting 20 goals in 39 appearances for Shangai Port.
However, he’s 32 now. Regardless of whether or not we bring him in on a short-term deal, what kind of Mark Arnautovic are we getting? Will he be hungry to hit the ground running and improve the team with his performances? After all, he’s already had his life changed by adding millions more to his millions, so will his hunger remain?
I am not questioning whether that is his character or not, I might be wrong, but at 32 and going into the final few years of his career, is he going to be as effective as he once was? Not likely.
First and foremost, it’s his age that should be putting David Moyes off a deal. Moyes himself said last year that he would be looking for young and hungry players in the transfer market. Craig Dawson was the outlier last summer, of course, but the majority of Moyes’ business has been on players who not only add quality to the team but also have several years left in them. Arnautovic doesn’t have that.
Whichever European competition we’re competing in next season, going into it with two strikers beyond their thirties just isn’t ideal. Michail Antonio is still one of our most important players, but it can be argued that his days in that position are numbered because of his age. He desperately needs help, but that has to come from someone who is going to be around long before Antonio leaves. Again, that won’t be Arnautovic.
The answer to the earlier questions are clear, then. His betrayal of the fans and the club back in 2019 means he is not worthy of pulling on our great colours again, and his age counts against him as we look to build a squad capable of competing at the right level for years to come.
He’d be a good bench player, perhaps, but he’s not the striker we need and he’s certainly not the striker I want to see play for my club again.
Maybe it’s just me, but I just can’t forgive and forget. He threw his toys out of the pram when we needed him most, got himself a shiny new contract as a result, and then did it all again six months later. I just can’t forgive that.