West Ham manager David Moyes believes record signing Marko Arnautovic is “a little bit of a Zlatan”, as the Austrian enjoys a rich vein of form.
The former Stoke City forward has scored nine goals and added four assists in his last 14 games as he looks to help the Hammers stay in the Premier League, most recently setting up Javier Hernandez’s equaliser in their morale-boosting 1-1 draw with Chelsea.
Arnautovic will be hopeful of delivering another decisive performance on Monday against his old club, who are six points from safety with five matches remaining.
And Moyes claims Arnautovic can extend his influence beyond the pitch and assume a leadership role, drawing comparisons with Swedish veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
“He is a little bit of a Zlatan inasmuch as the players look to him,” Moyes said.
“He’s getting to an age now where he’s going to influence players, and he’s going to have to influence players around him, so he needs to be doing it by his leadership and performance. His performances have done it in many ways.”
Initially, however, the former Everton, Sunderland and Manchester United boss was worried he would not be able to coax the best form out of Arnautovic, who had struggled in his first four months at the club, often being criticised for his poor work-rate.
“I was concerned, because I’d seen him play for Stoke sometimes and I didn’t think he did all the running back defensively,” Moyes added.
“I was saying ‘I’m coming to a team in the bottom three and if I’m not going to get all the players running, we’re going to be in difficulty.'”
However, utilising Arnautovic as a striker – despite having spent most of his career on the flanks – proved a masterstroke.
“That’s why we had to find something which meant that maybe he wasn’t quite as exposed to having to double-up, help the full-back out,” Moyes said.
“We had to find a way of getting Marko into a different system. And we played around with it, it wasn’t rocket science.
“We didn’t go out there with it really planned. He was the one that showed us, and going to centre-forward freed him up a little bit. I got him to run and close things down, and show that he really had that capability.
“He’s someone who needs the confidence, but I think he also needs the understanding of how you get to the levels you’ve got to.”