West Ham fans have been reasonably buoyant in the Transfer Tavern during the international break following their side’s crucial win over Swansea last time out.
Slaven Bilic’s men were languishing in the Premier League’s bottom three ahead of their encounter with Paul Clement’s Swans, but a Diafra Sakho strike in the 90th minute secured the Hammers a much-needed 1-0 success at the London Stadium.
That result lifted them up to 15th and somewhat eased the pressure on boss Bilic over the fortnight’s interruption, and his side will seek back-to-back league victories for the first time since January when they travel to Burnley on Saturday.
The Clarets have made a fast start to the new season with three wins and three draws from their opening seven matches, with victories over Chelsea and Everton indicative of the kind of test West Ham will have at Turf Moor this weekend.
And, as such, Bilic needs his best players to be on point in Lancashire on Saturday, and that means that summer signing Marko Arnautovic needs to up his game.
The Austria international made a £20 million move to the London Stadium from Stoke City but has so far failed to live up to that price-tag, with no goals and no assists in his first four Premier League appearances.
In fact, the 28-year-old was sent off against Southampton back in August and thus hasn’t endeared himself to the Hammers faithful, but even when he has been on the pitch, he has struggled to make the desired impact.
Arnautovic has created just three chances for the club in the Premier League so far this season, equating to a rate of 0.8 a match – West Ham didn’t spend £20 million on a player to fail to create one chance every game.
That figure is less than defenders Aaron Cresswell and Arthur Masuaku, and indeed somewhat behind attacking rival Michail Antonio, whose figures should be somewhat similar to that of Arnautovic.
But they aren’t even close.
Most notably, Antonio attempts 1.7 dribbles per game to Arnautovic’s 0.3, which is a staggeringly low number for a forward who likes to take defenders on, and has the trickery and ability to change a game in an instant.
The Austrian is fouled less regularly than the former Reading and Nottingham Forest winger (1.5 to Antonio’s 1.8), which appears indicative of who the opposition, at this moment in time, see as the greater threat – Arnautovic just isn’t carrying that threat at present.
However, we all saw from his time at Stoke that he is capable of a match-winning display off the cuff, and against a Burnley side who have somewhat struggled at home this season, it could be the 28-year-old’s time to shine.
He was left out of the squad to face Swansea last time out due to illness, but a decent effort for Austria during the internationals could see him back in contention for a starting role at Turf Moor.
You’d expect Saturday’s game to adopt a similar trend to the Swansea clash, very tight and nervy, and maybe a moment of quality will win it.
Arnautovic has that quality, and as such must improve for West Ham if they are going to pull away from the relegation mire.
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