By Dennis Watling
Hear me out on this one people.
With Haller doing his best Andy Carroll impression and the Moyesiah refusing to acknowledge the existence of our other strikers, he’s clearly hoping to emulate the single tactical idea he’s got right this side of 2010, turning Arnautovic into a striker. But sadly, it isn’t working with Antonio. He works well in a front two with Haller or on the wing in a three, but not up top on his Larry. Whereas Yarmolenko may fare better.
Don’t get me wrong; I would much rather we give Xande Silva a go on Wednesday night. He deserves a chance and we have nothing to lose right now. Ajeti clearly is not good enough sadly, and as deluded as Moyes is I would like to think he would give Ajeti a chance seeing as he used to play Victor Anichebe up top. It is quite clear that until Haller is fit, Antonio isn’t going to be effective up top. They were forming a great partnership this season in the few games they played together, but we must face reality; Michael Antonio cannot play up front on his own.
Moyes has barely had the chance to see Yarmolenko perform, and after an injury ravaged two seasons neither have we to be fair, but it’s being speculated he may be used up top against Chelsea as opposed to Ajeti or Silva, and it might just work. (And having written that, it won’t). He was clearly playing with an injury in December and has been MIA since apart from a run out against Wolves. Since then, we’ve arguably signed a better player in his position in Jarrod Bowen, so a transition into a central attacker should be on the cards.
Based on his formative years with Dynamo Kyiv and his sole season with Borussia Dortmund Yarmolenko often played central, just off the main striker. In this role his desire to run towards goal and shoot worked well in an attacking team. With the creativity of Bowen and the power of Antonio either side of him, he could easily use the traits that made him a known commodity well as a number 9. He’s got the size to hold play up from crosses, his goal against Manchester United showed his footwork and agility, and theoretically he will come in with a fresh set of legs following his long injury layoff.
Apologies to sound like Michael Owen, but goals win games. And we are not scoring. Yarmolenko hit a purple patch in September and October playing off Haller in the middle, with arguably our goal of the season against Norwich. That is the kind of goalscoring consistency and presence in the box we have lacked since Arnautovic left. He’s proven he can shoot from range as well, something Antonio really struggles with – often ballooning shots 6 yards high and wide. His record in Kyiv, albeit in the Ukrainian Premier league, speaks for itself. Since 2010 he was scoring 15+ goals a season in all competitions, including Europe. Goals are what we need, goals (on paper) are Andrey’s forte. He has a record in 1 in 5 for us, which sadly is pretty good within our current squad.
Moyes should not look to him to be a creative playmaker; we have Bowen and Fornals as well as *ducks for cover* Anderson and Lanzini on the bench for that. Rather as an aggressive battering ram in the box, both an aerial presence and a player who wants to be in the penalty box. Much like Arnie was last time around. After Chelsea we have a run of 3 vital games, Newcastle, Norwich and Watford. Relegation battles are normally impacted by either the loss of a key player to injury or the resurgence of an out of form player. Get Yarmolenko in the line up Wednesday to help match sharpness before our run in.
Can Andriy emulate Arnie and save our season? Let’s hope so.