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West Ham winger turns from villain to hero

PUBLISHED: 13:30 27 November 2017

Marko Arnautovic battles for the ball against Leicester City

Marko Arnautovic battles for the ball against Leicester City

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Marko Arnautovic has his best game in claret and blue to win over fans

Marko Arnautovic, West Ham UnitedMarko Arnautovic, West Ham United

Every one of the West Ham players have received plenty of stick this season, but no-one more than Marko Arnautovic.

The Austria international, the Hammers’ record signing at £23million has been red-carded, been criticised for a lack of effort and vilified for rolling around the pitch after supposedly being injured.

But on Friday night at the London Stadium we saw a different side to Arnautovic. We saw the player that cost all that money, we saw the international winger who can hurt the opposition.

“That is what nobody understands,” he said after the 1-1 draw with Leicester City. “When I came here it put me back with the red card, three games I was out.

Marko Arnautovic, West Ham UnitedMarko Arnautovic, West Ham United

“Then I came back for the Swansea game and I had the flu, so it dropped me back again.

“I always look to train hard and come back strong and now I am nearly there.

“I feel really fit and really good and now I want to show the club and the fans what I can do.”

Not before time, but this was an excellent performance by Arnautovic before he was forced off with injury.

Marko Arnautovic, West Ham UnitedMarko Arnautovic, West Ham United

Not only did he get forward and deliver some telling crosses, he also chased back and did his share of defending with one tackle on Jamie Vardy in the box, particularly eye-catching.

Arnautovic has heard the boos before now, but this time it was cheers and encouragement and he could not believe the noise of the crowd.

“To be honest, I have never heard a louder stadium than this,” he insisted. “It was like ‘wow’. I couldn’t even hear my own voice when I tried to speak to ‘Zaba’!”

The Austrian has played in some of the biggest arenas in Europe, but it was the London Stadium that has impressed him most.

West Ham United's Marko Arnautovic leaves the pitch with an injury during the Premier League match at Vicarage Road, Watford.West Ham United's Marko Arnautovic leaves the pitch with an injury during the Premier League match at Vicarage Road, Watford.

“The crowd was crazy,” he said with a laugh. I don’t know what it was, whether they had microphones, but this was crazy and every player likes to play in front of a crowd like that.”

The winger certainly seemed to revel in it, although it looked like it may have been a different story when Leicester grabbed an early lead.

“We were a bit disappointed with that goal because we were managing the game and they had no chances,” he said. “It was a bit hard for us, but I think everybody stood up and we tried again.

“We played well and we deserved more. We got a point but we needed all three.”

Perhaps this is a turning point for Arnautovic, but he needs to find some consistency to justify that hefty transfer fee and it seems David Moyes might be the one to get the best out of him.

Everton are up next, before three daunting matches against teams in the top six and the 28-year-old is looking to work hard again.

“This is the Premier League and it is never going to be easy,” he said. “Every game is hard and that is why it is the best league in the world.

“It doesn’t matter if you play Everton or Man City, every game is the same, the attitude needs to be the same and you have to give everything to get the best things out of the game.”

Arnautovic will look to do just that at Goodison Park tonight, so how did he think he did against Leicester City.

There is a slight smile: “I never say how I played because we have all the newspapers and all the internet websites who deal with that.

“I try to do my best and if the people think I was good, then I was good, but I will still try harder.”

When he looks at the newspapers and websites after this game, he will have been pleasantly surprised, but now he must repeat that and maybe get himself on the scoresheet.

That will make up for his disastrous start.

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