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Lurking in the shadows of one of the most formidable striker's in world football, Marko Arnautović has often been dubbed during his career ‘a poor man's Zlatan Ibrahimovic'.

But comparisons with the Swedish legend are not purely down to just height and image. The Austria international's complexion, combative character and enigmatic playing style are all traits you can associate with Ibrahimovic.

There were signs that the former Stoke City hitman could even emulate his great pretender – a Champions League winners medal with Inter in 2010 the highlight of a then blossoming career.

A key trait, however, lacked from the big Austrian's game – consistency. Arnautović at his most fluid best, threatened to take games away from teams singlehandedly during a four-year stay at Stoke.

Blistering pace and unmatchable power, Arnautović was unplayable on his day and Potters fans knew they couldn't afford to risk losing him.


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But a new challenge dawned. It became clear towards the end of last season that Arnautović was looking at pastures new and subsequently performances dramatically dipped.

Perhaps the most recent and obvious example came following Stoke's third consecutive league defeat away at Burnley in middle April.

The Potters had swept aside relegation-threatened Middlesbrough a month earlier, thanks to a double from Arnautović and champions-elect Chelsea were next on the horizon.

Backed by raucous support, the Austrian was at the forefront of everything positive about Stoke's attacking display that day, but ultimately an unfortunate twist of fate would deny the Potters a share of the spoils.

This would appear to take it's toll on Arnautović's run of good form. Back-to-back defeats at Leicester and Burnley would follow and a series of poor displays left fans wondering if they had seen the last of the Austrian in Stoke colours once the campaigned ended. 

It's these inconsistencies which will ultimately prove to be Arnautović's downfall. A top player on his day, West Ham fans will not allow for such dips in performance level given the money spent by the club to bring him to the London Stadium. 

The 28-year-old must begin to rekindle the sort of form which eluded him in this last few months at the Bet365 Stadium.

With big money comes big expectation and the Hammers faithful will demand their record-signing hits the ground running in an attempt to win over supporters who are still questioning the £22million spent on the winger.

But perhaps his form at Stoke was simply a case of the Austrian becoming to comfortable in his surroundings?

During his first full season with Werder Bremen back in 2010/11, Arnautović was regarded as one of the best players in the league, grabbing eight goals from midfield in an excellent debut campaign.

A slight dip in form would follow the season after – just seven goals for the Austrian and a string of inconsistent performances. And his final campaign in the Bundesliga merited just five goals before a move to Stoke was finalised.

There is no doubting Arnautović's enviable qualities but to fit into a side like West Ham, still pained by the loss of their star playmaker Dimitri Payet, the Austrian must eliminate those inconsistent spells.

An initial £20m fee, which could rise further, seems a lot of money for a player who continues to divide opinion amongst supporters.

West Ham's intentions are clear and they cannot afford another season flirting at the wrong end of the Premier League table.

Arnautović will bring undoubted quality, but whether he can influence the game in the same way Payet did remains to be seen.

Nevertheless, Hammers fans are guaranteed entertainment with their influential summer recruit and perhaps this could be the stepping stone Arnautović needs to banish the Ibrahimovic links after all.

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