The international break arrived at a bad time for West Ham United as they suffered a 1-0 defeat away at Brighton prior to the two week hiatus.
International breaks are seldom greeted with enthusiasm by Premier League fans but the two week absence is especially untimely on the back of a defeat.
The Hammers created enough chances to at least clinch a point from their Friday night trip to the Amex last week, but they failed to make a breakthrough despite having plenty of the ball.
Marko Arnautovic was presented with a chance in the dying embers of the game which he uncharacteristically poked over the crossbar, but Charlie Nicholas does not expect that to affect him on international duty tomorrow evening.
Indeed, ahead of the next round of international fixtures, Nicholas delivered his pre-match predictions (via Sky Sports) and he tipped the West Ham powerhouse to score a brace against Northern Ireland.
Nicholas wrote: ‘Marko Arnautovic has been great for West Ham this season and at home he’s bound to give Northern Ireland problems all night long, so he could be the difference and it wouldn’t surprise me if he scored both goals in this one.’
Although Arnautovic has failed to find the back of the net in his past five appearances for Austria, it would take a bold man to argue against Nicholas after his blistering start to the campaign.
The 72-cap international has picked up from where he left off last season with 4 goals from his opening 7 fixtures and he has looked typically menacing at the spearhead of the Hammers’ attack.
Offering a potent blend of physical power, technical brilliance and clinical finishing, Arnautovic is one of the most effective centre-forwards in English football right now and Nicholas is absolutely right to predict an international masterclass on home turf.
Northern Ireland beware.
West Ham fans – thoughts? Let us know below!