A stirring late comeback may have won the hearts and minds of West Ham United supporters, for one more week at least, but Marko Arnautovic has some distance still to travel to convince them of his commitment.
Manuel Pellegrini, the manager, was at pains not to focus on Arnautovic’s poor display after he was replaced in the 67th minute to a chorus of boos and jeers from home fans. But, making his first start since January, and after his non-too-subtle handling of a potential big-money move to China, Arnautovic hardly endeared himself to the near-60,000 crowd.
“I think that you insist on trying to make Arnautovic guilty,” said Pellegrini when quizzed about the fans’ response.
“He’s not guilty in the way we play. He didn’t play well but he was not the only player. The fans, if a player plays well, they will accept him, not only with Marko, with every player. The fans want to see their team winning. After that, they want to see the player giving all they have, after that they want to see quality and if, in this moment it’s not your day, it happens to all the players in every club in the world.”
Still, not “all the players in every club in the world” behave as Arnautovic did in January, when he seemed destined to leave the club and, with West Ham trailing 3-1 to all-but-relegated Huddersfield when Pellegrini hauled him off, he was never going to be afforded the benefit of the doubt.