Noble: I understand why Arnautovic wants to leave West Ham
Mark Noble, the West Ham United captain, hopes Marko Arnautovic will stay at the club but said it was “realistic” for the Austrian to be considering a big-money move to China.
West Ham last week rejected a £35million bid from a Chinese Super League club, believed to be champions Shanghai SIPG, for Arnautovic, whose brother and agent has said he wants to leave.
Arnautovic appeared to be waving goodbye to the West Ham fans when he was substituted during Saturday’s 1-0 win against Arsenal here.
“I spoke to him [before the match] and he said ‘Mark, whatever happens, it is out of my hands, but as long as I play for this team, I am going to give 100 per cent’,” Noble said.
“You saw that [against Arsenal]. Marko has got a reputation of maybe being a little sulky but, let me tell you, he is a great lad around the dressing room. He is fantastic to have around there. Do we hope he doesn’t go? Of course, he’s probably our best player.
“But I always think it is such a short career. You work until you are 35 and then you have got to find another living. You go to China for five years on £400,000 a week, you don’t.
“He is a fantastic player and I hope he stays, but we will see. He’s a West Ham player for now and I think he showed how much this club means to him.”
Arnautovic’s situation has been compared to that of Dimitri Payet, who left West Ham in 2017 after going on strike.
“I think it’s a completely different circumstance,” Noble said. “We didn’t keep Dimi and he was our best player at the time. I’m hoping this one is a bit different.
“If you are realistic, you can always see the player’s point of view. He’s got kids and he wants to secure their future. Obviously, he is earning fantastic money here, but the money in China is a different kettle of fish.”
If Arnautovic does leave, the blow may be softened by the resurgence of Samir Nasri, who impressed on his first Premier League start for the club.
Nasri signed at the end of December, on the day he completed a doping ban received for using an intravenous-drip treatment.
The Frenchman, who was unable to play for 13 months, said it was “the best feeling so far in my life to be back”.
He added: “I started questioning myself, if I would be able to play football. At the start, they [Uefa] gave six months, on the last day to appeal they appealed and Uefa asked for two years and the World Anti-doping Agency asked for four years. When you’re 30 years old, you think your career is over because no one is going to give you a chance after four years of ban. It was almost like being depressed.
“I knew that I would have a club, but maybe not in the Premier League. After I lost one year, I didn’t want to go somewhere ‘exotic’. I wanted to be back in one of the biggest leagues in the world and prove to myself that I’ve still got it. I wanted to leave a legacy for my son, who never saw me play. He’s 11 months old.”
Nasri set up Declan Rice, the man of the match, to score the winner against an Arsenal team who are struggling for form away from home.
Unai Emery’s side are now without a win in five away games in the league and defender Sokratis bemoaned the lack of chances they were able to create here.
“We did not control the game better than them,” Sokratis said. “We did not create chances or finish them off. It is not about the two shots on target – look at how many chances we would have had if we had done better with the last pass. Look at how many chances we had to make for the last pass. This is the problem.”
The future of Mesut Ozil, once again left out of the entire squad despite being fit, remains a longstanding issue for Arsenal and Emery. “For me, he is like another player,” insisted Emery. “Sometimes he is helping us, at other moments not helping us because of his injury or because maybe the match is not for him. But he is a good player.”