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…
West Ham United boss Manuel Pellegrini faces a selection headache next season.
The Hammers have signed Pablo Fornals for a fee of £24m this summer and Andriy Yarmolenko, the Ukraine international, has returned from a serious injury in pre-season.
He made a total of 10 appearances in all competitions last season before he sustained a rupture to his Achilles tendon that ruled him out for the entirety of the campaign.
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He is a right winger, as is Fornals, and it remains to be seen who the former Manchester City boss will pick.
Statistics could be the answer here, but Yarmolenko’s 2018/19 sample size is simply too small so looking at his numbers from 17/18, when he was still at Borussia Dortmund, could prove more enlightening.
Per WhoScored, he made 18 league appearances for the Bundesliga giants and scored three goals, while providing two assists.
He averaged 1.6 key passes per game and had a pass success rate of 78.5%. The latter number does not tend to be too high for wingers, as they regularly look to pass the ball on the run and also cross it into the box.
Fornals’ numbers last season, by comparison, can be used, as he made 35 league appearances for Villarreal.
He scored two goals, one less than Yarmolenko, and registered three assists, one more than his team-mate.
He averaged 1.3 key passes per game and had a pass completion rate of 78.1%.
These are two remarkably similar players, then, and one has to ask exactly what the benefit of having both is.
Of course, if one is injured, then the other can absolutely step in but Pellegrini will be faced with a less than binary decision here.
Fornals may have the benefit of being younger – he is 23, while Yarmolenko is 29 – and that’s where the advantage ends.
Fornals had the benefit of a full season in 18/19 while the latter was used sparingly in 17/18 and the Ukrainian’s numbers are still more impressive.
In total, the club have spent £41.5m on two players who can do the same job, with the same numbers.
Fans have a right to ask what the point of that was; perhaps Fornals will enjoy a terrific season but, as it is, he is no better than the man he has been brought in to compete with.
That is not a good sign ahead of the 2019/20 campaign.