Why Marko Arnautovic would be Stoke’s most important signing of the season
Posted by Eddie Bradbury | Published on March 4, 2016
Following back to back wins against relegation candidates Aston Villa and Newcastle, I discuss why tying Arnautovic down to a new contract would surpass all other signings Stoke have made this season.
Season of Signings
It has been a season of splendid signing’s for Stoke City, which began back in the summer when Mark Hughes signed an influx of players, most notably Joselu, Afellay, Glen Johnson and Xherdan Shaqiri. It was remarkable business from Mark Hughes as he continues to surprise fans and media alike with the stature of players he is able to attract to the club. Shaqiri’s transfer in particular raised many eyebrows at the time, as various people spoke out and questioned his ambition moving to little old Stoke, having had previous spells at Basel, Bayern and Inter. Nevertheless, the negative criticism from these people was like water off a duck’s back for the gaffer as he continues to assemble a squad worthy of qualifying for European football. Having smashed the transfer record at £12 million with Shaqiri, Hughes did not stop there. Throughout January Stoke were continuously linked with Giannelli Imbula and on deadline day Sparky once again got his man, smashing the transfer record for a second time at £18.3 million. In addition to adding to the squad, Stoke have also been looking to sign existing players down to new contracts. This is evident with Geoff Cameron, Jonathan Walters and Bojan all signing new deals this season. There are also rumours that Jack Butland could be rewarded with an improved contract following an outstanding campaign from the goalkeeper.
New Arnautovic contract is essential
It is fair to say that Arnautovic has been Stoke’s most influential player this season, at least outfield anyway. You could argue that a few players (such as Diouf and Bojan) have been disappointing this season, although there are understandable reasons for this. Bojan suffered a cruciate knee injury last season keeping him out for 7 months, whilst Diouf has had to deal with the death of his Mother. The same however cannot be said for Arnautovic, who has improved drastically compared to his two previous seasons, netting 9 times and providing 4 assists in 25 appearances for Stoke this season. This is a great return for a winger. Not many thought it would be Arnautovic being the consistent threat for Stoke’s attack this season, having scored 5 goals in his previous two seasons combined. After giving him time to settle in and with new arrivals entering the fray, we are now seeing the full capacity of his undoubted ability. You can tell that Stoke look more dangerous when Marko is on the pitch and he is truly refreshing to watch. The man has tremendous physical abilities, and his combined strength, trickery and speed makes him a nightmare for any team to play against on his day. You can tell by his personality that he is a winner, he is never satisfied with his performances and is always looking to improve. He is the ‘killer’ amongst our players and he can put games to bed, as he has shown in games against Man Utd, Chelsea and Man City to name a few this season. Through the early stages of his career, such as at Inter Milan, he was oftenly criticised and marked as having ‘the tools but not the temperament’. This season in particular, this statement can be seen as a myth to me. He has formed a decent partnership with Erik Pieters down the left hand side and has shown great desire to track back and help out his team mate when the full back has been exposed.
Hughes must learn from his mistakes
If Stoke City are to continue to make progress and improve on their previous campaigns of finishing ninth, it is pivotal that Mark Hughes learns from his mistakes of allowing players to see out their contracts, in which allows other teams to get them on the cheap if only one year on their contract remains. This was the case with Asmir Begovic and N’Zonzi. N’Zonzi’s departure in particular was hard to swallow and it is fair to say that we have missed his presence in midfield. It looks like we have finally replaced him with the acquisition of Imbula, who seems to be a similar style of player. However, it was sloppy business not to replace him in the same transfer window, we could have had more points on the board by now if we had replaced him sooner. Marko Arnautovic has 15 months remaining on his contract and it is alarming that a new deal has not been concluded after several months of discussions. I am sure that he will be on the radar of a few clubs already after shining in the red and white this season and with Euro 2016 on the horizon, he is only going to attract the attention of more clubs if he can perform on the big stage. It is time for Hughes to go to Peter Coates and persuade him to give Marko the money.