West Ham United must start Marko Arnautovic when they face Fulham this weekend.
The Hammers have not tasted victory in any of their previous five games, though they did hold Liverpool to a 1-1 draw at the London Stadium on February 4th.
Arnautovic has enjoyed some truly excellent form this season, scoring a total of seven goals in 18 appearances in the Premier League.
He has, however, failed to score in his last three outings since a flirtation with a transfer to China.
Manuel Pellegrini gave the Austria international the chance to start against Wolves but he struggled before picking up an injury that ruled him out of the clash with Liverpool.
Following that 1-1 draw, Arnautovic played just 22 minutes against Crystal Palace.
Now, then, is the time for West Ham to trust again and give the striker the chance to play from the outset against Fulham.
Indeed, the Irons have lost just twice in the Premier League this season when Arnautovic has scored – to Arsenal and AFC Bournemouth.
The Irons are currently 10th in the table but they appear somewhat rudderless. They are not in danger of relegation but they are also six points behind Nuno Espirito Santo’s impressive Wolves, who sit seventh and occupy the final Europa League qualification spot.
Having Arnautovic back in the team would go a long way to reigniting a fire under Pellegrini’s men.
Football FanCast reported earlier this month that Arnautovic and West Ham have agreed on one specific compromise in the striker’s new contract. The deal includes a clause that will allow the 29-year-old to leave if a bid worth £45m is tabled in the summer.
However, if he is to be the subject of any bids in the summer, he is going to have to prove his worth between now and the end of the season.
It could be a win-win for the Hammers. They could bring Arnautovic back into the fold, he could score the goals to propel the club up the table, and then there could be a major influx of cash for Pellegrini to spend in the summer.
Starting the Austrian against Fulham could be the start of a long-term strategy and would go a long way to ensuring the Irons pick up three vital points.
Indeed, Fulham are 19th and have conceded a total of 58 goals, 10 more than rock-bottom Huddersfield Town.
Arnautovic will surely be licking his lips.