Premier League

Changes required if Pellegrini wants City band back together

 • by Harry Gray
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Nostalgia is a potent drug and one which West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini seems happy to readily serve up at London Stadium.

Having added Samir Nasri to a Hammers squad already boasting Pablo Zabaleta, the Chilean is reportedly hoping to bring in a third member of his title-winning Manchester City side by signing Edin Džeko.

Perhaps keen to relive the halcyon days of the 2013/14 season with City, the West Ham boss is eying Džeko as a replacement for Marko Arnautović, should the forward depart for the riches of the Chinese Super League.

There’s always an appeal to sparking the embers of a former flame, but is the powerful Bosnian the right man to fill the considerable void Arnautović moving on would leave?

Pellegrini’s admission that the Irons No.7 will be sold if the right offer comes in as good an indication you’ll get that a transfer is in the offing, and United will certainly look to reinvest the money picked up from a sale this month.

In Džeko they have identified a forward with proven Premier League credentials – two league winners medals and 50 goals in the English top flight provides evidence enough of that.

However, with his 33rd birthday arriving in March, the Roma man is in the winter of a career which has yielded 173 club goals and is in no way a like-for-like replacement for the more mobile Arnautović.

The 29-year-old Austrian plays the game with a snarl, chasing hard and moving across the front line in an attempt to get involved in the action as often as possible.

Džeko has many qualities and can still link midfield and attack well with his hold up play, but understandably serves up his energy in smaller doses. 

Džeko’s 15 Serie A outings is one fewer than the number of Premier League appearances Arnautović has made this season, with the United man playing 196 more minutes than his counterpart.

There is, therefore, scope for comparison between two players who have been used in similar measurements by their respective coaches.

As far as goal output is concerned, Arnautović is out on his own and his seven league strikes (0.50 per 90 minutes) eclipses Džeko’s two (0.17).

That return is all but on par with his 6.55 total expected goals for the campaign, while Džeko should have found the net 7.10 times in the league this term.

Edin Džeko, Roma

Arnautović is also well ahead when it comes to creating and has laid on five big chances for his team-mates in the league, compared to just one for Džeko. Both do, though, boast two assists.

The raw data suggests Džeko is far from the answer to West Ham’s striking concerns should they need to replace Arnautović.

But yearning for what you don’t have is a dangerous game, especially when the player you currently possess looks set for a far eastern exchange, and the Hammers could be better off looking at what Džeko can do for them rather than what he can’t.

Needless to say, signing Džeko would require a change of tact from Pellegrini’s men to get a striker who scored 24 times last season back to his best form.

At 6ft 3ins Džeko remains a physically imposing presence, a powerful asset in the hurly-burly of the Premier League, and does much of his best work under the high ball.

His 3.60 aerial duels won per 90 leaves Arnautović’s 0.79 in the shadows and would be a boon to lean upon should United bring him to East London.

Dzeko v Arnautovic

The Hammers have scored only one headed goal in the league in 2018/19, which is the 19th fewest in the top flight, and Džeko would certainly hope to improve that number provided he is given service to feed off.

Andy Carroll’s presence among the United squad means turning to a more direct approach, while not always easy on the eye, could be key to keeping the Hammers moving forward heading towards the conclusion of the season.

Adapting halfway through a campaign will be no easy task, and there is an argument to allow the impressive Felipe Anderson, who has been involved in ten goals since joining United last summer, greater freedom to roam and create if Arnautović leaves the building.

If it is a reunion with Džeko which Pellegrini truly wants, though, expect the man with the moniker of the engineer to run the sums and make the required adjustments to his West Ham side.

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