The Curse of Marko Arnautović


Stoke City’s 2-0 victory at home to Sunderland last weekend saw the Potters end an 8-match winless streak in the Premier League which dated back to 31 August and a 1-0 victory at West Ham – their final match before the summer the summer transfer window deadline.

Mark Hughes’ reign as Stoke City manager had got off to an impressive start. Despite losing 1-0 at Liverpool in which Jonathan Walters missed a late penalty, the Welsh manager guided his side to back-to-back to victories over Crystal Palace and the Hammers, collecting 6 points from a possible 9 to start the 2013-14 season.

The former Queens Park Rangers, Fulham, Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers and Wales manager had already made two summer signings in defenders Erik Pieters (£3 million from PSV Eindhoven) and Marc Muniesa (free transfer from Barcelona) heading into transfer deadline day on Monday 2 September.

Stoke City supporters perhaps thought their club had pulled off a coup with the signing of charismatic Austrian international Marko Arnautović from German Bundesliga side Werder Bremen for £2 million at the end of the window.

Arnautović came to England with a reputation of being unpredictable, fiery on the pitch but capable of brilliance.

The Austrian only had half a season of experience under his belt at FC Twente at the beginning of the 2008-09 season when Steve McClaren made him a regular in the team. Having gone 0 goals in 16 league appearances before his arrival, Arnautović netted 12 in 28 under the former England coach.

Performances that season almost earned the youngster a move to Italian Serie A giants Internazionale. A foot injury led to a loan move instead. This move just days after the club had sold Zlatan Ibrahimović to Barcelona for a deal worth $66 million (with Samuel Eto’o going the other way) – the third highest transfer deal in world football at the time, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo (€94 million) and Kaká (€68.5 million) – both joining Real Madrid earlier that summer.

José Mourinho was the head coach who brought Arnautović to the San Siro. A replacement for Ibrahimović? It never worked out for the Austrian who went on to make just three second-half substitute appearances in Serie A that season after not being fully fit at the start of the season.

A permanent transfer never happened, with Mourinho describing Arnautović as a “fantastic person” but adding he “has the attitude of a child”.

Arnautović would not return to Twente, but instead move to Germany and to Thomas Schaaf’s Werder Bremen ahead of the 2010 World Cup (a tournament in which neither Arnautović or Austria would participate).

Marko Arnautovic

He scored 3 goals in 25 appearances in his first Bundesliga campaign – playing out on the right wing. Werder Bremen won 10 league matches that season – Arnautović participated in 5 of those. That’s a 20% win record with him in the side, and 56% without. The Green-Whites had finished 3rd in the Bundesliga the season before – they finished 13th in their first season with the Austrian.

This was a team with Tim Wiese, Naldo, Clemens Fritz, Marko Marin, Aaron Hunt, Torsten Frings and Claudio Pizarro and a head coach who had guided them to win the German Cup the previous season as well as the league title back in 2003-04.

Any curse of Marko Arnautović was seemingly lifted the following season when forward scored 6 goals in 19 league matches – winning 8 of those. Werder Bremen would only win 3 of 15 league matches in his absence, either through injury or suspension.

His third year in Bremen proved to be his final full season. In 2012-13, in what was a struggle of a campaign for the Green-Whites saw them hanging around the drop zone for the latter half the season, finishing 14th and 3 points above the relegation playoff (4 points above the relegation zone).

Towards the end of that season, Arnautović had clashed with Sokratis Papastathopoulos (now at Borussia Dortmund) and suspended for the final four games of the season alongside teammate Eljero Elia after the pair were caught speeding.

Arnautović had scored 5 goals in 26 league appearances last season, which included an impressive hat-trick in 1 4-1 victory at 1899 Hoffenheim on 2 December 2012. Remember that date (not just for being his last goals for the club).

The fiery forward had played in 6 of Werder Bremen’s 8 victories, but he ended the season with 12 consecutive games without tasting victory (his team won 2 out of 6 without him).

Marko Arnautović started the 2013-14 season on the substitutes bench, watching his teammates open the campaign with back-to-back victories from their opening two games. He got a start in matchday 3, a 1-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund and made his final appearance in a 4-1 loss at Borussia Mönchengladbach on 31 August – stretching his winless run in the league to 14 matches dating back to December 2012.

Whilst Bremen were losing in Mönchengladbach, that same day Stoke City were recording their second victory in as many games by beating West Ham.

That’s when Marko Arnautović was signed by Stoke City. Following an immediate international break, the Austrian made his league debut in a 0-0 draw at home to Manchester City on 14 September, as a substitute for the final 20 minutes. Stoke City had now taken 7 points from a possible 12, after ending their last campaign with 15 points from a possible 54 during Tony Pulis’ final 18 matches in charge.

Then followed three successive defeats – to Arsenal, Norwich City and Fulham. A 0-0 at home to West Brom was followed up by a 3-2 loss at Manchester United in which Arnautović had actually restored the Potters’ lead on the road to 2-1 on the stroke of half-time with an exquisite free kick.

Draws with Southampton and Swansea City saw the Staffordshire club drop down the league, before, in his ninth Premier League match as a Stoke City player, Marko Arnautović was on the winning side for the first time last weekend.

Stoke City’s 2-0 victory over Sunderland in a game which saw Wes Brown controversially sent off ended an incredible 22-match run without a victory for Marko Arnautović which dated back to 2 December 2012 – his first league win of this calender year.

The forward is set to miss Stoke City’s trip to Everton this weekend, leaving Marko Arnautović with another six fixtures at most to find win number two in 2013.