Wednesday 13 December 2017

'Jon Walters is not human' - Arnautovic confirms what we all knew about Ireland star

Jonathan Walters, centre, Paul McShane, left, and Wesley Hoolahan training ahead of Austria clash
Jonathan Walters, centre, Paul McShane, left, and Wesley Hoolahan training ahead of Austria clash

John Fallon

Marko Arnautovic is as angry off the pitch as on it, and Ireland could feel the brunt of his ire on Saturday.

Austria's playmaker has struggled to shake off Jose Mourinho's damning assessment of him back in 2010 at Inter Milan when, as a 21-year-old, he was accused of possessing "the attitude of a child".

Impetuous but imperious on his day, the English Premier League has seen both sides of him since his arrival at Stoke City three years ago.

He missed last week's trip to West Ham with suspension, having picked up five bookings.

Arnautovic: Praise for Walters. Photo: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters
Arnautovic: Praise for Walters. Photo: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

The Vienna-born winger, even at 27, is easily riled and the flak he ships in his home city is met with contempt.

His two goals in the 2-2 draw against Wales were soon forgotten four days later when he spurned a glut of chances in the defeat to Serbia.

"The Austrian media has already written us off but we qualified for the Euros and have the players to reach the World Cup," was the battle-cry from the towering figure known natively as 'Arnie'

"I hear people calling for David Alaba to move into the defence. Have they seen the amount of passes he plays to me from midfield? I need that type of service."

Pressure to convert words into actions on Saturday is the expectation of the Austrian public.

Although their unbeaten run in competitive fixtures at the Ernst Happel Stadium stretches back four years and 10 qualifiers, simply drawing with a rival for the Russian showpiece is not enough, even at this relatively early stage of the campaign.

For all the tunnel vision Arnautovic possesses in his pursuit of intensifying Austria's charge from fourth place in the table, he recognises the challenge ahead.

Playing at club level alongside two of Ireland's likely starters, Jon Walters and Glenn Whelan, affords him that insight.

"Jon is not a human being, he is a machine," Arnautovic gushed about the Ireland striker.

"To me, Glenn is a compact player who knows as a midfielder when to receive the ball and spread it wide.

"Back at Stoke, we didn't talk much about the international coming up. I know almost all of Ireland's players from the English leagues and many of them we'll have to watch closely.

"In the draw they got against Serbia, I felt Ireland played very defensively. We can expect they'll do the same in Vienna, so the responsibility to attack will be on us."

Despite Austria being ranked No 33 in the FIFA standings, three places above Ireland, their bungled preparations for this game have reflected the sense of confusion around the camp.

Heavy rain in the Austrian capital prompted coach Marcel Koller to ditch their traditional ground adjacent to the national stadium.

His preference to use the main pitch was rejected by his employers, concerned about the state of the surface for the big occasion, forcing them to source another venue on the opposite city of the sprawling city.

Such hiccups will be binned once his side deliver in front of a packed house on Saturday.

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Irish Independent

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