Marko Arnautovic – No Longer a Budget Zlatan

Stoke were scintillating in their destruction of Manchester City in Gameweek 15. A lucky day or a sign of things to come? PlayON Daily Fantasy Focus takes a closer look at their goalscorer Marko Arnautovic and his growing fantasy value.

 

  • Name: Marko Arnautovic
  • Position: Midfielder
  • Fantasy Price: £8.5m (PlayON), £6.1m (FPL)
  • Appearances: 14
  • Goals: 5
  • Assists: 2

 

Throughout his short but mercurial career, Marko Arnautovic has had to manage comparisons with one player above all others – and no, we’re not talking about fellow countryman, record goalscorer and part-time rock-star – Toni Polster .

Now 26 years of age, the Austrian international has long carried a reputation as a kind of bargain-basement Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The similarities are certainly there.

Both rose to prominence in the Eredivisie – Arnautovic at Twente and the big Swede at Ajax. Both spent time under Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan – though they never actually crossed paths on a football field. Both are of Balkan origin, gifted with impressive stature and possess often insane technical prowess. This is all before the mere mention of those questionable top-knots and a shared fiery streak.

However, if you imagine that living in the shadow of this giant of the game would give Arnautovic delusions of grandeur, think otherwise:

I copy many things from him. But you cannot make a comparison…

He has achieved much more than I have and he is capable of doing things that I could only imagine.

For all his exceptional talent, it’s application and consistency where the Austrian international has struggled most in his career – his highest ever goal tally in a single season was a mere six in 19 games, achieved back in 2011/12 with Werder Bremen.

However, with five to his name already this season and currently in red-hot form, the wing-forward looks set for his best ever campaign in the Premier League.

 

 

Man of the match – among several worthy candidates – in Stoke’s 2-0 steamroll of Manchester City in Gameweek 15, Arnautovic looked the finished article and was narrowly denied his hat-trick by the woodwork.

On the left-side of a front three consisting of Bojan through the centre and Shaqiri on the right, the 6ft 3″ Arnautovic was given the perfect platform to demonstrate exactly what he’s capable of. Bojan’s creative false-nine role gave Shaqiri and especially Arnautovic freedom to dart into space at speed, pulling City’s shaken and visibly aged backline completely out of its comfort zone. Two goals were deserved, but Stoke could have and should have made it a mauling.

Occupying a blurred line between midfielder and forward – much like teammates Bojan and even Jonny Walters – Arnautovic has the potential to be a hugely viable fantasy option. In both PlayON and Fantasy Premier League, the Austrian is defined as a midfield player but has stepped up his goalscoring potential considerably across the past four Gameweeks.

 

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Ranking alongside Mahrez, Bolasie and Ross Barkley, the Stoke number ten has been the joint-highest scoring midfield player in the Premier League – with three goals from his last four starts. This increased threat around the goalmouth is further demonstrated by the amount of touches he gets in the box – 20 over the past four games – with Southampton’s Dusan Tadic topping the chart in that respect with 25.

At this point last season, the Austrian was dropping in and out of the team and hadn’t registered a goal or assist in over nine appearances. By the end of 2014/15, he had just one goal and decent return of six assists.

This time around, the focus appears to be based more heavily on goals than assists.

The coaches tell me they’re happy I’m giving assists, but that I also need to score. They see me as a goalscorer, so I have to enter the box, make runs and shoot more.

I’ve picked that up and I’ve done it from the first day this year… I want to improve and I want to keep scoring, scoring and scoring.

With Bojan’s creativity and Shaqiri’s powerful wing-play and through-ball potential – playing four successful through balls in Gameweek 15 alone – Arnautovic may have the perfect conditions to step-up the strike-rate as he’s clearly striving to do.

Stoke face West Ham in Gameweek 16 and while this is by no means a clear cut game, the Hammers are significantly hampered from an attacking perspective by the injury absences of Dmitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini. Stoke have won three of their last four away clashes while West Ham have only kept one clean sheet in their past ten games and managed just one at home all season.

Only 2.3% of Fantasy Premier League managers have selected Arnautovic in their squads, while a whopping 26% of PlayON selectors have included him in their line-ups for Gameweek 16, meaning the differential value varies wildly depending on your format of choice. Regardless, those who witnessed last weekend’s performance would need some steely convictions to not bring this man into the fold.

A player that Bild once labelled the worst in Europe – having gone 19 games without a single victory back in 2013 – is now flourishing under the tutelage of Mark Hughes.

He may not reach the heights of Ibrahimovic, but he’s certainly realising the potential that made him a player coveted by Europe’s elite.

 

To sort your line-ups for Premier League Gameweek 16 – with or without Marko Arnautovic – get to PlayON.co

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