On Wednesday morning, West Ham United announced that they had signed Andriy Yarmolenko on a four-year contract.
Before joining current club Borussia Dortmund, the Ukrainian winger had been an ever-present on the transfer gossip columns across his time at Dynamo Kyiv. Spending ten years in the Ukrainian capital, he had caught the eye thanks to eye-catching performances in the Europa League and consistent goal-scoring record in Ukraine’s Persha Liha.
However, his move to Dortmund didn’t work out as planned: an injury-ravaged spell led to only 18 appearances in the Bundesliga last season as the German giants stumbled through a disappointing campaign.
It’s possible that he waited too long for a big move but, at the age of 28, he still has a lot to offer going forward and he appears keen to put the Dortmund spell behind him.
“The Premier League is the best league in the world and I know that an interesting project is being built here at West Ham. The team wants to achieve high things and I am excited for this challenge,” he said on the club’s official announcement.
The fee is undisclosed but is reported to be in the region of £17.5 million.
With Yarmolenko’s career overlapping with the greatest player of post-independent Ukraine, Andriy Shevchenko, the two played together for a number of years, most notably during Euro 2012: a competition held on home soil. Since the former AC Milan and Chelsea legend retired, though, Yarmalenko has taken on the responsibility of being Ukraine’s national talisman.
Scoring 35 goals, only Shevchenko has more goals for his country than Yarmolenko although, only 13 goals back from the record, you wouldn’t bet against West Ham’s newest signing overtaking him – a fact all the more impressive given Yarmolenko plays more like a wide-forward than an out-and-out striker.
More reliable than Yevhen Konoplyanka on the other flank, the width the two forwards provide is Ukraine’s most potent weapon and, more than anybody else, this has elevated Ukraine to international challengers. Euro 2016 was only the second summer tournament Ukraine qualified for after Yarmolenko scored home and away in the play-off qualifier against Slovenia.
With him as the main man, they also narrowly missed out on the 2014 World Cup, beating France 2-0 in the first leg of play-off only to see the deficit overturned in the second leg. During this year’s World Cup qualifiers, he scored five goals as Ukraine narrowly lost out to Croatia and Iceland.
Yarmolenko is also a player who relishes responsibility, stepping up if given a key role. He also delivered at club level for Dynamo Kyiv, scoring 137 goals in his time there.
Yamolenko’s time in Germany started promisingly enough with a well-taken goal against Tottenham in the Champions League group stage hinting at more to come.
He continued to score and assist as the Peter Bosz era began well, contributing to resounding victories over Cologne and Hamburg after Die Schwarzgelben had taken an early lead at the top of the Bundesliga.
It wasn’t to last though, as Bayern Munich found their feet and the wheels fell off at Dortmund. Increasingly, Yarmolenko would find himself isolated and frustrated, in and out of the team, as Bosz began to look out of his depth tactically.
While his replacement Peter Stoger steadied the ship and ultimately had them qualifying for the Champions League, his more conservative and defensive approach failed to get the most out of the Yarmolenko and a serious Achilles injury meant he missed a vital three months of the season.
Returning to make brief substitute appearances at the end of the season, he failed to find winners against Werder Bremen and Mainz.
Fitness shouldn’t be an issue going forward, however, as Yarmolenko looks to have shaken off the injury and looked back to his best for the national team, scoring twice against Albania in a June friendly.
How will he fit at West Ham?
Yarmolenko is best as a wide forward in a front three as opposed to an out-and-out winger. His dribbling is his biggest asset but he’s also a good passer and can float in dangerous balls from dead-ball situations.
The more natural fit of a striker would be a player with the canny movement and intelligence of Javier Hernández as Yarmolenko likes to take on players, cut inside and play through-balls or cut-backs – if not shooting himself. Less of a byline-hugging crosser of the ball, Andy Carroll would be less of a natural partner.
New manager Manuel Pellegrini will hope to craft a multi-dimensional attack that utilises the wide areas, with Yarmolenko and Marko Arnautović given key roles. Both players possess an ability to create chances for themselves and finish well.
Another new arrival, Jack Wilshere, will be asked to play the distributor role and look to find them in space.
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