The Cult of Marko Arnautovic
Fans of Stoke City will probably be sitting together in four or five years’ time, looking back on Marko Arnautovic’s spell with the club rather fondly. After joining Mark Hughes’ team in the last few hours of the summer transfer window, Arnautovic got his career with Stoke underway on Saturday.
September 19th, 2013
The Austrian international played the final 20 minutes in Stoke’s 0-0 draw with Manchester City; and showed a couple of signs as to why he may quickly become a cult hero at the Britannia Stadium. He fired a couple of shots off target but it was the confidence with which he tried to curl an effort into the top corner in the dying moments that should be the cause of most excitement.
Arnautovic is a difficult player to categorise. As a youngster, he was often followed around with the tag of the “next Zlatan Ibrahimovic” and it was probably a reputation that weighed heavy on his shoulders. After impressing at Twente, he failed to make a loan move to Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan permanent. Marko’s actions were so peculiar that the Portuguese manager was compelled to declare: “Marko is a fantastic guy, but he has the attitude of a child. Mario Balotelli is his best friend and coincidentally they have the same properties. This is not easy.”
Best friends with Mario Balotelli? That can only mean good things off the pitch; surely.
In Tony Pulis’ Stoke team, Arnautovic would have been seen as an unnecessary luxury. He doesn’t put in the hard work and effort required to keep the game tight. In Mark Hughes’ side, he could be a creative spark to help them win some games they wouldn’t otherwise win.
Hughes’ team aren’t a million miles away from how Pulis set up his team; but there is the intention to attempt more passes, enjoy more possession and score more goals. Arnautovic can help Stoke do that. His touch and control is much smoother than his tall, narrow frame might suggest and his confidence in being able to do the spectacular will probably frustrate Stoke fans more than it delights them this season.
However, he is the start of a change at Stoke and he’ll score more memorable goals along the way. Marko Arnautovic will go down in Stoke City folklore.