In the beginning days the name and the trickery impressed us: The step overs, the cultured left foot, the European pedigree alongside height, a handsome smile and popularity with the lads made Andriy Yarmolenko a West Ham fan transfer dream.
He was Pellegrini’s choice – one of Pellegrini’s £100million pound men, bought as a luxury purchase to play as an experienced incisive winger in a 4-2-3-1 who would hopefully develop good link up play with an exciting number 10 either in Lanzini or the revamped Jack Wilshere. The dexterity on the ball, the hefty price tag, and the Champions league wonder-goal against Tottenham for Borussia Dortmund gave us a feeling he would be a West Ham hero.
But three years into his contract and only 53 out of 120 Premier League matches played and Yarmolenko’s favour – like Pellegrini and most of his fantasy team- has left the proverbial pitch. Yarmolenko is one of the highest paid players on the wage bill at £115k a week, but that £5.98mllion a year has only bought seven goals and two assists in Premier league matches over three seasons.
He may not be to blame for his lack of minutes on the pitch as his time at West Ham has been riddled with injury where ironically instead of scoring a wonder goal against Tottenham, he suffered an achilles heel tear and a stretcher ride during a 1-0 defeat to the Spurs in his first three months in the claret and blue. Recent matches have seen Yarmolenko sky two shots over the crossbar on his left foot where he had time and space to take them, in what West Ham fans have come to regard as the only position he can score in.
Then there was the below par performance against Manchester United where his poor work rate and attitude incurred a scolding from Moyes and the ire from fans. The lesser of the West ham fan base, aka Twitter trolls, even scoffed as the Ukrainian striker was injured accidentally by West Ham Czech mate Kral in an international game of Ukraine and the Czech Republic.
Their comments made mirthful delight of the nascent bitterness they felt for Yarmolenko being injured by the new loanee, almost as if it was a surrogate punishment they were doling out through Kral for their burst dreams. Yarmolenko with one year left on his contract at the age of 31, an injury record, and a high weekly wage isn’t likely to sell on the market – not nearly for the £17 million that was paid for him.
He doesn’t have the pace of Antonio or Bowen, nor the ability to track back, so the question is: What value does Andriy still have and how can West Ham use him in Moyes new system? Just like many of Pellegrini’s men who have gone on to score goals in other competitions when they’ve left West Ham, Yarmolenko is still bagging goals as a striker for Ukraine against the leading players in international competition – his technical ability and desire is still there.
He also is used to playing in the cold, and his hold up play in dribbling could see him work wonders against lesser sides in the Europa league in the autumn weeks and winter months to come where Antonio and Bowen will both need resting. Though his defensive duties never match any of his frontline teammates, Yarm has also defied poor opinions of his defensive duties and tracked back to make last ditch clearances when necessary – doing so versus Zagreb recently.
Andriy still has favour with his teammates as this past week he brought captain Declan Rice via helicopter to watch his friend and fellow Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk beat Anthony Joshua in a heavyweight boxing match. With West Ham’s strong but limited squad, I think it’s time for West Ham fans to be supporters of all players while they wear the claret and blue.
Yarmolenko is the most experienced striker in the squad where our options are most necessary and perhaps with more game time, he’ll build the confidence and work ethic he seems to now lack. If West Ham have done anything under Moyes it’s to be reborn, which might see us celebrating a late-winning wonder goal, from a cut back on a now repaired achilles heel where he and the West Ham faithful will breathe a sigh of relief as the ball dips into the net.