January, it’s an understandable time of year to be feeling somewhat blue. Christmas is over, yet the excess weight from the festive period endures. As a result, you are left to resemble that glorious bacon wrapped sausage which so merrily accompanied your Christmas turkey and roasted spuds. On top of that, the weather is dark, damp and miserable, more so if you are one to be attempting a dry January or have just abandoned a New Years Resolution still in its infancy, leaving you with nothing but the dreams and memories of falling back to Russia 2018 – when the nation bathed in lager on glorious sunny days as football came home again.
However, for football fans, in January there still lies a salvation. A warmth and glimmer of light to fend off winters dark days and frost.
The transfer window opens once again! The final time before the end of the English season. We can rejoice and look forward to spending a deadline day in front of the telly in the company of Jim White and Co while enjoying the likes of Harry Redknapp leaning out of his car for an interview following a last minute transfer, a purple dildo causing havoc outside of Goodison Park and an uninvited Peter Odemwingie wanting a medical.
For many clubs over the years, the January transfer window has given them that little boost they needed to get by, so many times it has been the difference between success and failure, survival and relegation, winners and runner-ups.
The transfer window can be a time of joy and new found optimism courtesy of some much needed reinforcements signing on the dotted line, becoming the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is a football team.
For others, though, the window can be a time of unwanted departures, uncertainty and underwhelming despair, yielding overpaid stars or under performing talents if indeed any signings are made at all.
For many clubs, January really can be a time that winter truly comes.
Introducing: Marko Arnautovic
As a long and faithful West Ham fan, one of our star players wanting to leave the club is not a new experience.
From Paul Ince donning a Manchester United jersey pre-transfer, to Dimitri Payet’s refusal to play under former manager Slaven Billic, which struck the West Ham faithful harder than any free kick he ever took for the club.
West Ham supporters know all to well what it’s like to have our bubble burst. The likes of Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Jermaine Defoe and many talented others have parted ways with the club since the turn of the century, all under a different set of circumstances, yet the potential departure of Marko Arnautovic left a different smell in the air to that of what us Hammers fans are normally accustomed to.
Shortly after the summer window had slammed shut, prior to kick off of the 2018/19 Premier League season, there had been whispers and rumours of a potential Marko Arnautovic deal. The then Manchester United Manager, Jose Mourinho, was said to have been interested in securing the Austrian international’s signature. That was as far as it went.
As far as anyone is aware, a bid was never even made and that’s not surprising given Manchester United’s lack of overall transfer activity during the course of the summer.
Yet, agent and brother to the Irons talisman, Danijel Arnautovic, on the other hand, had contrasting opinions on the matter.
Back in November; Danijel made the statement that Marko was ready to move on, to take the next step onto bigger and better things.
Though Marko Arnautovic, himself, and anyone else with inside knowledge of West Ham United football club were quick to squash the agent’s notions at the time, those words were enough to plant the seeds of doubt into a pot soiled with disrespect, lacking in professionalism and class.
Fast forward to January and West Ham United rejected a £35million bid for Marko Arnautovic from a Chinese club.
Following up his coveted Hammer of The Year Award last season with 7 Premier League Goals and 2 assists so far, only club record signing, Felipe Anderson, has more combined goals and assists for West Ham than the Austrian this campaign.
An impressive feat when you consider the amount of games the Austrian has missed and played through injury.
With an inconsistent little pea, Chicharito, and an injury prone, Geordie donkey resembling the only real replacements available to West Ham manager, Manuel Pellegrini, it’s accurate to say that the loss of the West Ham United talisman would be a huge blow for the Hammers despite the rise of new stars Anderson and 20 year old midfield sensation Declan Rice.
Following the rejected bid; on the 10th of January the club released a simple statement explaining that Arnautovic was not for sale in a response to brother Danijel rearing his unprofessional head once again.
It is truly incredible that for a second time the man had effectively bitten the hand that feeds him – and this time the puncture had left venom.
West Ham United currently pay Marko Arnautovic £100,000 per week, as a result, his agent, brother Danijel, is effectively also paid by West Ham United and now will be at least until the end of the season.
Danijel had spoken out and claimed that West Ham had paid what can be considered peanuts for the enigmatic Austrian in today’s football market at £20 million – a then club record for Slaven Billic’s team. A bizarre notion in all honesty.
Whilst at Stoke it is undeniable that Marko Arnautovic displayed bags of footballing talent and ability. Yet he was very much a player that ran hot and cold in terms of form on the pitch. A hero of one game turned villain in the next.
Inconsistency stalked Arnautovic throughout his Stoke career, dominating games one week while being no more than a spectator the following. It’s small surprise that Stoke fans were so eager to see the back of Arnautovic that they were willing to drive him to Chadwell Heath themselves.
For the first 3 months of his claret blue career, Marko offered nothing at West Ham under Billic and the residents of Stoke laughed at the £20 million pounds the East London club had traded to acquire the international’s services. In my mind, £20 million pound in today’s market for a player of such description is a fair and attractive price.
Laughably, the agent also said it was Marko’s desire to compete for trophies that he should move. That West Ham United should accept the offer for him to go to China in order to let him do so.
Now, in this day and age, if a player wishes to depart the European shores and play in Asia for a big payday then fair enough, it’s an easy £3/400,000 per week for playing in a country that makes Sunday League look like Champions League.
However, the idea that a player from one of Europe’s big leagues would go there for any reason other than the huge money on offer ridiculous.
The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy is more highly regarded than any silverware one could attain in China. It’s clear that brother Danijel just wanted to line the pockets of Marko Arnautovic and thus line his own with a Chinese move.
It’s a common saying that actions speak louder than words. Danijel had spouted a lot of hot air, yet Marko Arnautovic himself had taken no action… Until the Arsenal game on the 12th January that is.
With the Hammers leading the Gunners 1-0 at home, Manuel Pellegrini substituted Arnautovic. Whilst leaving the pitch the Austrian appeared to bid the claret and blue army farewell as Arnautovic made his towards the bench. When the final whistle of the referee blew, in that moment of sweet victory, the first at home for West Ham against Arsenal since 2006, Arnautovic stalked down the tunnel instantly.
Come the 19th of this freezing, grey month, the Austrian’s name did not appear on the team sheet to face mid-table rivals Bournemouth and West Ham United succumbed to a 2-0 defeat.
For the last week it appeared inevitable that it was only a matter of time before the announcement was made that China had met West Ham’s £50 million valuation of Arnautovic and that a deal was done.
Marko Arnautovic had joined the many which had come before him and departed West Ham United… That was until Friday evening when the news broke: Arnautovic is staying.
This time the statement had come direct from the horses mouth, rather than that of a parasitical show pony.
Despite all the drama we’ve had to endure these last few months, West Ham fans should rejoice.
Our talisman shall remain a Hammer until the end of the season at the very least and could prove to be vital in challenging to finish the season in a European spot or spearhead a hugely desired FA Cup run.
Going forward, West Ham can only hope that the poisoned tongue of Marko Arnautovic’s agent remains sealed away and that for now, this winter transfer saga has come to a happy end.