Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth will be hosting West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday, and whilst Manuel Pellegrini’s side fell to a 2-1 defeat at The London Stadium earlier this season, a lot has changed since that game and this could be a game that’s decided by just one man from each side, in Marko Arnautovic and Dominic Solanke.
Slaven Bilic came under fire when he first opted to bring Arnautovic from Stoke City to West Ham, but the decision to splash £20 million on the Austrian has proved to be a masterstroke. Meanwhile, we’re yet to see the best of Dominic Solanke anywhere, after failing to get chances at Chelsea he moved to Anfield, where again he had little opportunity before he made the move to Bournemouth for £19 million.
West Ham’s Austrian goal machine is an experienced European footballer. Having played in his native Austria, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and now England, the 29-year-old has been around the block and knows where the goal is. His transformation from a winger to a striker, though, has been a recent one, and the Hammers have been reaping the rewards as he’s bagged them 19 goals since signing.
Last season saw West Ham struggling greatly at the bottom end of the table, but having a character like Arnautovic in the squad makes a massive difference when the going gets tough. His goals, assists and general forward play were vital in the Irons staying up, and he was rewarded by being named Hammer of the year in his debut season. Now, though he’ll have to show what he’s all about if the Irons are to overcome Bournemouth.
TT GRADE: B
Eddie Howe has certainly made a bold statement by spending £19 million on a 21-year-old striker who has just one Premier League goal to his name. That goal came on the final day of last season when he scored in a 4-0 win over Brighton to secure a place in the top four for Jurgen Klopp’s side. However, he failed to make a single Premier League appearance for the Reds this season, leading to his switch to Dean Court.
In truth, it’s hard to assess Solanke. The striker’s highlight reel consists almost completely of goals, assists and moments that he’s had playing for development sides, and it says more about the current market than it does about Solanke’s ability that the fee required for his services was so high, and it could prove to be hard for the English striker to perform to his top level with such a price tag hanging over his head.
TT GRADE: C
Whilst Solanke has plenty of promise and could go on to make this article look silly in four or five years time, at the moment it’s hard to look past Marko Arnautovuc. In his days at both Stoke City and West Ham in the Premier League, he’s proven that he knows where the goal is, and that’s something that we haven’t yet seen from Solanke, so for that reason, the winner of this battle simply has to be Arnautovic.