Marko Arnautovic went missing on his big return for West Ham United at Molineux Stadium last night. As Manuel Pellegrini’s men were trounced 3-0 in the Premier League by a dominant Wolverhampton Wanderers team under Nuno Espirito Santo.
The striker was making his first appearance of any kind since the Hammers’ 1-0 win over Arsenal on January 12, having put transfer speculation to an end for now by signing a contract extension at London Stadium last week. However, it was far from the return he would have desired after missing defeats by AFC Bournemouth and AFC Wimbledon and ended disastrously. Under 24 hours after the result, we’re going to analyse Arnautovic’s performance with a statistics-driven tactical analysis.
First and foremost, before analysing his heatmap, number of touches and the way his night ended with injury in Wolverhampton, we will be taking an in-depth look at his key attacking statistics from the one-sided clash. They are contained in the below wyscout.com image.
You will notice that the graphic also includes Arnautovic’s career average attacking stats at the very top, as well as his figures from the East Londoners’ fourth successive away defeat in all competitions. However, it’s just last night’s stats we’re going to be focussing on today.
As we can see, the 77-cap Austria international and vice-captain for club and country was deployed in his usual centre-forward role, within an unusual 4-4-2 from Pellegrini and featured for 79 minutes. Prior to hobbling off with a painful-looking foot injury.
In this time and rather damningly, Arnautovic failed to score or assist, although he can be forgiven given his lack of service, register a single shot, shot assist or carry on his shoulders any kind of expected goals threat. Simply not good enough for a forward returning to the fold with a point to prove following the collapse of a near- €50 million move to the Chinese Super League.
To his credit, the then-club-record signing from Stoke City in the summer of 2017 did manage to record an impressive 100 per cent dribble and cross accuracy, though he only had to complete one of each.
Our final four stats sum up well Arnautovic’s sorry showing with a comfortably-below-average zero touches in the opposition penalty area, a single progressive run and no fouls drawn for his flailing and flagging team at Molineux.
They are only consoled by the fact he wasn’t found offside on one occasion, but he could hardly get into the right area to be flagged on the evening the Hammers missed a fourth opportunity of 2017/2018 to go seventh in the PL table.
Overall, it hardly takes a rocket scientist to work out that these are very disappointing figures for Arnautovic to produce when the Irons really needed him to step up. They are up there with some of his worst since being converted to a centre-forward under David Moyes, a worrying sign considering the pay rise he received to stay at the club beyond this transfer window.
Heatmap and touches
Next in this tactical analysis, it’s time to analyse Arnautovic’s heatmap and number of touches from the club’s third loss on the spin in all competitions, brought to us by our good friends over at whoscored.com. In the below graphic.
Initially, we will look at the 29-year-old’s heatmap situated in the right centre of the image and without glancing at it too long, it already paints an image of an erratic display. As you can see, whether through fault of his own or that of his teammates, Arnautovic often had to come wide or drop deep to see the ball when it would have been better to stay in the danger area. He popped up in almost every different section of the pitch and struggled to stick to his position, a sub-standard positional showing.
Things don’t get better as we move onto analysing his number of touches above the heatmap, as he could see just 30 on the night. To put this into perspective, only Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio, who faced no shot on target during the game, had fewer touches of the 22 stars that started in the West Midlands. Once again, this is a long way below par for West Ham’s supposed talisman.
As if things couldn’t get worse for Arnautovic on what was supposed to be his defiant and triumphant return, his evening was cut short. Although he would only miss the best part of the last 20 minutes plus a hefty chunk of stoppage time added on by David Coote, making only his seventh refereeing appearance in the Premier League.
This was due to a nasty foot injury sustained in the 70th minute, just after centre-back Romain Saiss had headed the hosts into a deserved lead. Using the below four images from Wyscout, we’re going to analyse the sequence of events that ended Arnautovic’s game prematurely. Starting with the first, which shows him bringing down a flick from 68th-minute substitute Andy Carroll in the wake of an Arthur Masuaku throw-in, just inside his own half.
Looking to set his side away on the counter-attack and help them respond quickly to Wolves breaking the deadlock just four minutes earlier, Arnautovic turns with Joao Moutinho and opposing captain Conor Coady in close attendance. He is straight-away confronted by the Portuguese international who clips him with his boot as the number seven tries to take the ball away from him.
As we can see, Arnautovic immediately spins away and falls to the floor, while the match continues and Wanderers are about to have a penalty appeal turned down after Pablo Zabaleta’s risky challenge on Diogo Jota. The inexperienced Coote fails to spot the foul, leaving the reigning Hammer of the Year grounded and yet to receive treatment from the physios.
Two minutes later, the man who’s scored seven times in all competitions in Claret & Blue this season despite a string of injury worries is eventually helped off the field in clear pain and distress, unable to put proper pressure on his stronger right foot. Post-match, Arnautovic was spotted leaving Molineux with a protective boot on and grasping clutches, the Austrian is expected to undergo a scan on his foot, today.
As our statistical tactical analysis today has discovered, Arnautovic not only went missing in his first outing in over two weeks, but put in one of the worst performances of his Hammers career to date, and certainly in times more recent. From a statistics and tactical analysis point of view, not to mention according to the reaction to the display from the fan base and the wider footballing world.
The task of winning back over the Claret & Blue Army for the final few months of the campaign before an expected move away from East London in the summer transfer window has now become even harder for Arnautovic. This is down to a combination of the performance and the fact he now has another injury to recover from. The once-fan-favourite is not expected to be available for the visit of league leaders Liverpool to London Stadium, in five days’ time.
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