Marko Arnautovic’s return to West Ham United’s first-team, following a hamstring injury, has come as a major lift and relief for manager Manuel Pellegrini, but more importantly, it has given the Hammers a great goal-scoring boost ahead of Saturday’s clash with Arsenal.
West Ham welcome the Gunners to the London Stadium following an easy 2-0 win in the FA Cup over Birmingham City this past weekend that saw Arnautovic find the back of the net as early as the second minute.
The Austrian also got his name on the score-sheet with a brace in West Ham’s previous Premier League match against Brighton last week.
The big selection worry for Pellegrini, however, will be who he decides to partner Arnautovic with up front.
The manager opted for a lone striker in the win over Birmingham, but has played most of the league matches with two wide centre-forwards.
Nonetheless, the return to form of Arnautovic should give the East London club heaps of confidence heading into the encounter with Unai Emery’s men.
Arsenal have failed to record a win in all of their previous four away matches in the Premier League, which could present Arnautovic with the opportunity to have a go at Emery’s vulnerable defence.
The 29-year-old has two goals in three league games against the North London club, since joining West Ham in 2017.
If Arsenal decide to play with a back-three again then Pellegrini should certainly force Arnautovic to make runs from wide at the likes of Stephan Lichtsteiner, who has struggled to cope with aggressive attacking by teams in the league.
Arnautovic’s ability to hold the ball up could also be beneficial, given the fact that Arsenal don’t have the tallest of defenders. By doing that he would need good support play from his West Ham teammates and it also gives Robert Snodgrass an opportunity to whip crosses into the box where Arnautovic could pounce.
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