That preposterous red card against Southampton last month was certainly not what West Ham had in mind when they made him their record buy in the summer.
They thought they were getting a player with the craft and guile to make them forget about Dimitri Payet, not a £24m hothead who has to issue public apologies after leaving his team-mates in the lurch.
This was more like it from Arnautovic, though. Yes, he will encounter much tougher opponents than Bolton Wanderers this season, but the crowd at the London Stadium enjoyed their first look at the former Stoke City forward, who had a strut in his step as West Ham cruised into the fourth round of the Carabao Cup at the expense of their limited Championship guests. “This is a good beginning of the comeback for him,” the manager, Slaven Bilic, said.
It was difficult to read too much into an easy 3-0 win for West Ham. Bilic made 10 changes to the team that drew at West Bromwich Albion, although his players could not be accused of complacency against the Championship’s bottom side. Winless in their opening eight league matches, it soon became apparent why Bolton have struggled since winning promotion from League One.
Phil Parkinson’s side cracked after four minutes, allowing the unchallenged Angelo Ogbonna to meet Arnautovic’s free-kick from the right with a powerful header that flew past Mark Howard. “We struggled to contain some really talented players,” Parkinson said.
Arnautovic sparked the majority of West Ham’s attacks during an embarrassingly lopsided first half. He was desperate to put on a show, although he was too eager to impress at times, indulgently sending an ambitious lob over the bar. Bilic was thinking about that wasteful miss when he spoke about his desire to force the Austrian to maximise his talent.
“I want him to do more,” Bilic said. “He’s got that quality. He knows I like him. Sometimes he gets happy with a few things he does and I want him to push the borders. Sometimes he is happy just to pass it back or do a little trick. I know what he is capable of. But did he do the job today? Of course.”
But what about doing the job when Tottenham Hotspur visit on Saturday? “I bet every one of you thinks he should be playing‚“ Bilic said. “He impressed me. This is going to make us go into the Spurs game with more confidence.”
Arnautovic was prominently involved when West Ham killed off Bolton’s hopes 14 minutes before half-time, racing on to Mark Noble’s astute pass and finding Diafra Sakho for a straightforward finish.
Sakho is another West Ham forward striving for redemption after trying to engineer a move to Rennes last month. He played well here, but West Ham’s fans have not forgiven the Senegal international’s conduct judging by the boos that greeted his late substitution. “Sakho’s attitude is spot-on,” Bilic said. “That is why he is playing for us.”
Otherwise it was a relaxed evening for West Ham. A third consecutive clean sheet was welcome for Bilic after a fraught start to the season, especially as his team contained two teenagers. Sead Haksabanovic, a Montenegro international, earned praise from his manager for an unfussy debut in midfield, while Declan Rice was assured in central defence.
By the time Arthur Masuaku beat Howard with a stunning rising drive in stoppage time, thoughts had already turned to the plan for Tottenham.
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