This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Despite his long absence because of injury last season, it was still something of a surprise to see West Ham United attacker Andriy Yarmolenko fail to make the matchday squad for the opening day Premier League clash against Manchester City.
The Ukraine international looks set to battle with the likes of Michail Antonio, Felipe Anderson, Manuel Lanzini and Robert Snodgrass for a spot out wide in manager Manuel Pellegrini’s preferred 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1 formations this term.
He deployed the former against the English top flight holders at the weekend with Antonio and Anderson taking their places on the wing, and new boy Pablo Fornals forced to sit among the substitutes.
Three attack-minded players made up the rest of the 18 in the form of Fornals, Snodgrass and Javier Hernandez, with Yarmolenko and Arthur Masuaku among those to miss out completely.
Doubts may have been raised about whether the duo had picked up knocks before the visit of the Citizens, but the respected Claret & Hugh confirmed that they had been omitted for selection reasons, with others preferred on the substitutes’ bench ahead of them.
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That competition is only going to increase too, with recent summer arrival Albian Ajeti looking to make his mark.
Yarmolenko made a decent enough start to his career in England with two goals – both away against Everton – and one assist in nine Premier League outings before he suffered a ruptured Achilles in against Tottenham in October 2018.
It was an injury that kept him out of action until the summer, and now he will surely be determined to regain his spot and prove that he can be a big player for West Ham.
Even though he was excluded by his manager last time out, the 29-year-old should be back and vying for a starting spot for the visit to Brighton this weekend.
While Anderson – who appears to be ok having been forced off against City himself after picking up a niggle – is probably almost guaranteed a spot in the XI due to his price tag, the fact that Antonio was hooked at half-time suggests he is in danger of losing his place on the right.
Realistically, Snodgrass and Yarmolenko are the only out-and-out wide players who could come in and replace him, and the latter should fancy his chances of getting the nod even after what happened just a few days ago.
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137 goals and 90 assists in 340 matches for Dynamo Kiev, as per Transfermarkt, show exactly what he is capable of in the final third, and he is undoubtedly someone who can hurt the Seagulls on Saturday with Mario Husillos saying when the club signed him last summer how he is “fast on the counter-attack”.
If he can take his opportunity to impress Pellegrini in training this week, he is the one who should be starting above any of his competitors at the Amex.