Should Manuel Pellegrini be impressed or worried that Marko Arnautovic's ambitions stretch only as far as the Chinese Super League?

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 11 January 2019, 12:14

MANUEL PELLEGRINI is never one to get too carried away by anything football or life throws at him.

The sort of bloke who would greet the gift of a flashy sports car by checking the road tax is up to date before accepting it.

It is with the same composed and minimalist manner in which he is dealing with the antics of West Ham rebel Marko Arnautovic.

Just an hour or so after claiming he has always been ‘friends’ with the volatile striker, Arnautovic sent his brother out into the firing line to demand a move from the club.

As Danijel is at pains to point out his brother wants to leave West Ham to ‘win titles’.

Considering the only official bid West Ham have ever had for the Austrian is from Chinese Super League champions Shanghai SIPG one wonders how high Marko sets his standards.

It’s nothing to do with the fact that the two Arnautovic boys could trouser a fortune with a move to the Super League. Nope, it’s definitely just about the football.

There’s not exactly a clamour of top stars rushing to the Far East to become a Chinese league champion. Up and coming as the game may be over there it is still considered no better than League One or Championship at best overall.

The wider issue for Pellegrini though is that while he is not the first West Ham manager to be caught in the crossfire of this stand-off between club and wantaway player, the circumstances are brand new to The Hammers.

Pellegrini’s predecessor Slaven Bilic walked into a press conference one morning and announced that Dimitri Payet had demanded to leave the club.

Payet was the team talisman, the masterful Frenchman was carrying the club with his dead-ball wizardry that propelled The Hammers into the top seven and to the last eight of the FA Cup. He was far and away the outstanding name on the team-sheet.

Last summer, the West Ham board broke all bounds of investment by pushing the boat out for skillful Brazilian forward Felipe Anderson for a deal costing up to £47 million.

They also brought in centre half Issa Diop which for a few weeks at least was a club record at around £25m. Tricky winger Andriy Yarmolenko cost just under £20m.

Even the new boss Pellegrini is costing £7m a year.

In relative terms that is a huge outlay for a club which has generally relied on one star name every season to put bums on seats


Last season that was Arnautovic - he was the new Payet; despite getting himself sent off and banned for three games just a few weeks after arriving from Stoke City, the West Ham fans took to his character and energetic performances.

Unfortunately for him, he is no longer the main attraction. Anderson is stealing the headlines with his goals and his trickery on the wing.

Diop is emerging as a composed rock at the heart of defence, youngster Declan Rice is the clear fans’ favourite having emerged from the youth team academy.

If ever a West Ham team was equipped to win a title, or a cup at least, it is now. After a wobbly start to the campaign, they sit in the top ten of the Premier League and breezed into the fourth round of the Cup.

All of which kind of puts the skids under Arnie’s brother’ claim that Marko needs to escape East London to stand any chance of finishing his career with some silverware - the prized China Ping An Chinese Football Association Super League to give it the full and glowing title.

What I think is really going on is that Arnie and his family have realised Marko has peaked, that from now on it is downhill. He turns 30 in April and younger players with just as much talent are coming up on the rails at his club.

Rather than ambition it is fear driving Marko Arnautovic out of West Ham. Worry that soon he will playing second fiddle to a better striker, struggling for games.

They’ve spotted the potential for a nice little earner in a far off land. Arnie might even be presented with a flashy sports car as a perk in Shanghai - with the road tax paid.

Instead of staying and fighting for his place and trying to end West Ham’s 38 year wait for a major trophy, he is scarpering before the going gets too tough.

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Nigel Clough
Nigel Clough
(Burton Albion)
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