This post originally featured on our comprehensive West Ham United analysis sister site, westhammatters.com.
In the last few days, rumours about the possible move of West Ham United striker Marko Arnautovic to Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United have exploded onto the back pages of many well-known and mostly UK-based media outlets.
They have been triggered by comments made by Arnautovic himself while away with Austria and his brother and agent Danijel Arnautovic about his future and a transfer away from East London, with Old Trafford being his most likely destination. Today, through a statistics-driven tactical analysis, we are going to be analysing the possibility of the 29-year-old becoming a red and how well he would fit in at the club, should he do so. Join us.
The first bit of compelling evidence tying Arnautovic to the Red Devils is the events of the summer 2018 transfer window, in which the player was heavily linked to Mourinho’s team, following 11 Premier League goals in 35 appearances in his debut season at London Stadium.
While there were slight murmurs of other clubs being interested then, United were undoubtedly the front-runners to land his signature if he was to leave West Ham 12 months after a then club-record move from Stoke City, worth £25 million.
The recent comments made by Arnautovic’s agent, in the wake of the centre-forward’s own comments in an interview with an Austrian newspaper, where he hinted that his future may not lie in Claret & Blue, outlined how close he was to moving on in the summer. And therefore, moving up to Manchester, the agent had the following to say when asked about the likelihood of a January transfer.
“That’s possible. It was already very, very close this last summer.”
A Familiar Foe
If Ed Woodward and co. wanted a first-hand example of what a handful Arnautovic can be on his day before dipping into their pockets for him and consistently, too, they certainly have plenty in that regard.
The imposing frontman scored his first goal in English football against the 20-time English Top-Flight champions whilst with Mark Hughes’ Stoke back in October 2013, in a narrow 3-2 loss for the Potters at Old Trafford.
He would also net against the club in December 2015 in a 2-0 victory for Stoke at the Britannia Stadium in his highest-scoring campaign of 14 goals for club and country.
And if that wasn’t enough and they were looking for a more recent memory, you only have to go back to late September when Arnautovic starred in a 3-1 defeat at London Stadium for Mourinho’s men.
From what United have seen of Arnautovic against them over the years, including his three career goals in meetings with them, the club would scarcely turn down the chance to sign him for a considerable fee.
Next in this tactical analysis, in order to find out how Arnautovic would fit in at Old Trafford and whether he would be a regular starter or have to settle for a squad rotation place, we are going to compare him to the Red Devils’ main option up front.
This is, of course, Belgian International striker Romelu Lukaku, signed from Everton for an astonishing fee of around £75 million in the same summer that Arnautovic joined the Hammers from Stoke.
To pit the duo up against each other, we have enlisted the help of the Premier League official website’s Player Comparison Tool. The above four graphics contain the statistics that are the base on which we will make the comparison, they have been taken from the PL in 2018/2019 so far.
In the Overview section, we are first drawn to the fact that Lukaku has made one more appearance than Arnautovic has in the league in a season that the ex-Werder Bremen man has been affected by illness and injury to a certain degree, up until this point.
However, the Austrian international, who has been playing through the barrier of a knee problem in the last few months, does have more goals with five to his four and more assists with one to his zero, having teed up Andriy Yarmolenko in the Irons’ win at Goodison Park.
The Chelsea Academy product Lukaku has featured in more clean sheets, although that matters little to a striker and does possess fewer yellow cards and a better disciplinary record than his opposite number.
What the Belgian does have on Arnautovic is more experience as an out-and-out striker, playing there all of his career while the 75-cap Austria man was converted to the position by David Moyes only around a year ago. However, that matters little when the Hammer has more goals per match, fewer minutes per goal and more shots and shots on target at present, as we move down to looking at the Attacking stats.
As you can see, Lukaku has had fewer efforts off target, but this only displays a lack of ambition. Whilst his shooting accuracy is inferior, he does have better shooting success than Arnautovic, but has scored fewer penalties, not having that responsibility under Mourinho so far this term.
Neither have missed or had spot-kicks saved this season in the league, while Lukaku has won one and Arnautovic hasn’t, the pair haven’t scored any free-kicks, and the West Ham man does have more goals with both his stronger right foot and weaker left foot than the United man. Although Lukaku has been king when it comes to headed goals.
The pair are tied on four goals from inside the box and the 29-year-old, four years Lukaku’s senior, has one more goal than his zero from outside the box. But the FIFA World Cup 2018 star has hit the woodwork on one more occasion, but closes by losing the final two stats to Arnautovic, big chances scored and big chances missed.
Overall, when we total up the stat scores, with one point being awarded to each player for winning a stat, it’s a convincing result in Arnautovic’s favour despite playing less, as he triumphs 13-8. This surely means that, statistically, Arnautovic would be the first-choice striker over Lukaku, if he rocks up at Old Trafford in the foreseeable future.
The Mourinho Connection
Our final factor that suggests an Arnautovic move to Man United is not only on the cards but likely is the connection with the current manager in Manchester, Mourinho, though it must be noted his own future is somewhat uncertain.
The pair know each other from their time together at the San Siro with Internazionale, with the Portuguese having some fantastic things to say about the player then and in recent times. However, they are known to have a slightly rocky relationship due to Arnautovic’s “childish” antics whilst on loan in Italy from FC Twente, but it is well-documented how the No7 has grown up since.
In conclusion, our statistical tactical analysis today has found that yes, West Ham fans should be worried about their star player Arnautovic moving to Manchester United either in January or next summer. As we’ve discovered, all things considered, he would be close to the perfect fit at Old Trafford.
Equally, Red Devils fans can afford to be excited about the player largely thought to currently be at the peak of his powers, joining their club soon. Amongst the United fanbase, there is a primary school of thought that Arnautovic could solve their attacking problems, replacing Lukaku or even initially forcing him to play better in a poor term for him thus far. But both sets of supporters will just have to wait and see what happens in the coming months.