Does Yarmolenko have a role to play after surviving squad cull?

The Ukrainian seems to be fully fit and is certainly a threat coming off the bench

Given the alarming lack of new arrivals at the London Stadium this summer and the asset stripping off the squad, the sight of a fit and firing Andriy Yarmolenko could provide us with a smidgen of solace.

The Ukraine international has had a stop-start beginning to his West Ham career, to the point that it is somewhat surprising to hear that he is now entering his third season at the club. 

In part this is due to his debut campaign in claret and blue curtailed to just nine appearances following an achilles injury. 

He had looked promising as part of Pellegrini’s three-pronged attack and scored twice against Everton, only to disappear for the rest of the season just a handful of games later.

Last season, he again started in fine form. A strong, direct runner, Yarmolenko posed a real threat alongside Anderson and Haller as Pellegrini had us riding high in the early months of the campaign.

Despite his desire to always cut in from the right wing onto his wand of a left foot seemingly flashing above his head in neon lights every time he gets the ball, opposition defences found him a handful and he scored against both Norwich and Manchester United in the early running.

And yet, an injury in December would have ruled him out for the season again, had it not been for the Covid-19-induced delay.

Since ‘the restart’, Yarmolenko has been in great form, on somewhat limited appearances. 

He crucially came off the bench and scored the winner against Chlesea in our vital 3-2 victory, a goal arguably just as valuable as any scored by Michail Antonio during the run-in.

It was a goal that summed up the man from Leningrad in a nutshell. Released on the right, he ran at the Chelsea backline before curling the ball brilliantly beyond the hapless Kepa. 

There is a school of thought that Yarmo may in fact be the best finisher at the club, and it is certainly a quality he has shown recently when given the opportunity.

In the Carabao Cup, he scored two goals and provided three assists in our three games. He was voted man of the match against Hull and had many fans suggesting he could have done enough to oust Jarrod Bowen from the first eleven. However those shouts have died down somewhat in recent weeks.

Yarmolenko came on during the game against Arsenal, and subsequently let his man run beyond him as the Gunners snatched an ill-deserved win after a good rear guard display away at the Emirates. 

He was then less than effective in his first start against Premier League opposition in the Carabao Cup tie against Everton – again raising doubts about whether he really offers enough on both sides of the ball to get into the side of the industrious Bowen.

So where does that leave the Ukrainian forward?

Well firstly, at present, the right wing berth is Bowen’s to lose. Whilst they possess similar qualities, the form of the man signed from Hull has been sensational in recent weeks, adding goals to his tireless work up and down the flank and the assists he has been providing to his team mates. 

Yarmolenko has shown that he is less willing or able to provide the kind of cover for his full back than the man currently in possession of the shirt. 

Couple this with Moyes’ clear preference for ‘workers’ over flair, and it seems unlikely that Yarmo will become a regular starter any time soon. 

However, the presence of the 6 ft 2 front man does give us options off the bench, a like for like replacement when Bowen has run himself into the ground. 

Equally, knowing that there is a fit and ready Yarmo just waiting to stake a claim, should keep Bowen sharp and may even help explain the upward turn in the Englishman’s output in recent weeks. 

Likewise, it is arguable that Yarmolenko is amongst the best finishers at the club. He also tends to play more centrally for Ukraine, for whom he has scored 38 times in 88 games. 

We have seen in both stints in charge that Moyes prefers his striker to be able to work the channels and be willing to run in behind and stretch the opposition defence. 

He converted Marko Anrnoutovic to the striker role to great effect and has replicated that move with Michail Antonio. 

If he really doesn’t fancy Haller, or doesn’t feel he suits the game plan – then maybe Ukraine’s second all-time top scorer is the solution. 

It would certainly negate his reluctance to track back whilst also counteracting his need to always cut inside when playing from the right. 

If he can stay fit and provide competition off the bench for Bowen and Antonio, then maybe he will have also provided some much needed squad depth, despite the lack of business this window. 

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