If reports are to be believed then West Ham United are finally coming close to sealing a move for their long-term need of a quality forward in Stoke City star Marko Arnautovic. The Austrian international has reportedly handed out a transfer request to the club and Mark Hughes isn’t expected to be a block in the move.
West Ham United have been linked with a host of interesting striking options over the past one month, pretty much similar to their last summer, and they haven’t really improved a lot. Apart from the free transfer of Pablo Zabaleta, who was released by Manchester City as soon as the season ended, the Hammers haven’t added any major signing to the squad so far.
And the striker’s position has been a huge crisis for Slaven Bilic since last season. The Croat could only manage to bring in a certain Simone Zaza on loan, after aggressive pursuits of some of the finest players and consequently, it didn’t work out well. A versatile Michail Antonio and an erratic Andy Carroll somewhat held the mast for them and they managed to stay out of the relegation zone.
West Ham finished 11th in the league table, which was clearly a backwards step for a side who finished seventh the season before and played the Europa League qualifications. The London club should target to finish within the ambit of the second-tier European tournament next season, and Arnautovic could play a crucial role in that.
Stoke City didn’t have a good season last term either, but the squad did see some exciting prospects coming to the fore, with Ramadan Sobhi and Bruno Martins Indi among them. Hence, Hughes’ sudden reluctance in holding on to his star forward, despite strongly rejecting a move by Everton for him last season.
Arnautovic extended his contract with the club by four years last summer, however, Stoke are expecting a squad upgrade this summer following their underwhelming season and Hughes would need funds to facilitate for it. Sobhi has been quite brilliant in the little chances he got and is expected to take the first team role next season.
However, Arnautovic has been one of Stoke’s better forwards and a perfect addition to help out Carroll up front. Since joining the Potters back in 2013 from Bundesliga side Werder Bremen, the versatile left-winger has been a tremendous utility player for them. He has scored 26 times and assist 32 times in 145 games, and his strong physique cuts out a huge advantage for any side having him.
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