The HamburgHammer Column

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I wish I could have written my column without the need to mention Marko Arnautovic ever again. But of course the Austrian winger turned striker is very much the elephant in the room here and to a degree he affected our game at Bournemouth without even travelling with the team.
That game has been discussed at length on previous threads, it was one of those days, reaffirming certain things about West Ham which unfortunately are still true.

We can go from a sublime performance against a big club to an indifferent or even woeful one in the space of a few days. We can face a team that’s been conceding goals for fun in a recent run of games, yet they come away with a clean sheet after playing us.

Oh yes, Bournemouth also very much appear to be our official bogey team now. I don’t think they were brilliant on the day, but they did the essentials right, mainly scoring when the opportunities were there, which in contrast we didn’t, so you can’t even begrudge them the three points.

It was clear we weren’t quite the same team without Arnautovic. Now, we have obviously had some good results recently when Arnautovic wasn’t available and of course we could also have won this one, with or without the Austrian, but we were struggling all game to adjust with Carroll starting.

And that’s not even taking into account whether the Arnautovic rumours and actions were maybe subconsciously affecting our players on the day.
It certainly doesn’t help team spirit if one of your top players announces publicly on the radio by way of his agent brother that he wants out and paying the town red somewhere in China. Apart from spelling toys being potentially thrown out of prams it definitely throws a massive spanner in the works for our club and the gaffer.

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The game itself was not exactly an advert for the Premier League though. A boring first half, followed by some incredible misses in front of goal on both sides, definitely not a game I would have hurried home for to watch in its entirety if I had known in advance what kind of game it would be.

I had been out to watch some local indoor football featuring the Concordia Women’s team, but again the event was clashing with the West Ham game, so I left early to watch our 0:2 defeat. Which I didn’t expect at all, to be honest.

I mentioned before how I try to retrieve information from every defeat, rather than moping and moaning. Making it part of a learning curve.

Losing games isn’t enjoyable, but Pellegrini will have won a few important insights with this game I reckon. For instance a pointer as to whether it’s a good idea to start Andy Carroll in PL games.

But even more importantly we will get to see how our gaffer will deal with a very unhealthy situation developing at our club in the coming days and weeks.

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Let me say in advance that I am well aware that I don’t know the full details of how things stand, I have to read news and rumours, take it all with a pinch of salt, trying to get a picture of how things might stand in terms of the Arnautovic situation.

What we know is that he wants to leave the club in order to get more money elsewhere. His agent made that fact public which in itself would put the selling club at a massive disadavantage, so that’s bad darts by the player to begin with.

West Ham have a valuation of the player, and rightly so, taking into account Arnautovic’s performances for us, his role in the team and of course the need to replace him adequately if he goes. Now, no matter if there is one club in China interested, two or three, at this point none of said clubs seem to have offered an amount anywhere near our valuation which leads to the unfortunate scenario of having a player who doesn’t want to be here and clubs that want him not willing to pay the kind of money needed to prise him away.

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It is the Payet conundrum all over the again. Now, Payet probably didn’t leave West Ham over money, there were different reasons involved, but the player wanted out and the club he had set his heart on signing for (again) didn’t want to pay anywhere his market value or an amount remotely required to replace the player.

So, what do you do ? The football romantic in me would cry out for seeing some power shifting away from the player to the club. Don’t cave in and sell low. Keep him at the club, if need be, but keep him away from the dressing room. Teach him a lesson about humility.Show him that no player is bigger than the club!
Yep, that felt good! Until you consider that you’re driving down the price for that player that way. It’s not gonna do the player any favours, but it also doesn’t really help your club. It costs money, the player is not going to contribute on the pitch, but on the other hand, maybe, you can prove a point which could help in future when dealing with potential transfers of your best players.

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We were bitten once with Payet. If we get bitten for the second time now with Arnautovic, what is going to keep us from seeing this happening again and again: With Anderson, with Diop, with Rice. The next week will be full of developments of the Arnautovic saga, we shall be nearing a solution, one way or the other.
Personally, I don’t see a way back into the team for him. Arnautovic has betrayed the trust of the club, his teammates, the fans.

I heard he apologised to the teammates. Nice one! But it cannot undo the stupidity of allowing his brother to go public with the Chinese whispers. That way he tried to push through a deal under terms to the benefit of himself, his brother and the buying club, but not his current employer West Ham. Again, bad darts that should not be rewarded.

This is a massive test of how far we have come as a club now. Pellegrini appears to share his experiences in football management, his knowledge and his mental prowess with our board. And dealing with star players, with divas and their big egos when it comes to transfer situations like this is a vital part of becoming a bigger and better club.

This is far from over yet. I have seen and heard enough of Arnautovic and his brother to know I want them out of this club. There is a reason why no big club has bothered to sign him up in his career as of yet. That’s because I don’t see him lasting long in an environment where he isn’t the biggest fish in a medium sized pond..
Saying that, he doesn’t seem to last long no matter how big the pond is. He is the textbook example of a modern mercenary footballing maverick who is interested in mainly himself, then himself, then money, then his family, then more money, then himself and maybe also fast cars and the odd flutter on football or the Chinese volleyball league.

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Again, no player is bigger than the club. My trust in Pellegrini is almost limitless at this point and I reckon he will handle this situation in the interest of our club far more than in the interest of the Arnautovic brothers. Rightly so. Wimbledon next in the cup. Perfect opportunity to focus on football again. Score a few goals, gain some confidence and carry on! Who knows ? If I’m in the mood and we reach the next round of the FA Cup, maybe I shall celebrate with a cheeky order of sweet and sour pork from my local Chinese takeaway – before having a flutter on some Chinese volleyball team…COYI!!!