Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United have been dealt another huge injury blow as winger Andriy Yarmolenko was ruled out for six months and in all likelihood, the rest of the season, after suffering a tear in his Achilles.
The member of the Hammers’ fearsome front three picked up the costly injury during Saturday’s London derby defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at London Stadium in the Premier League. Join us as we carry out a statistics-driven tactical analysis of who should replace Yarmolenko for West Ham, taking an in-depth look at the candidates and comparing them.
There are three main contenders or three front-runners to take the place of the ex-Borussia Dortmund star in the front three of Pellegrini’s modified 4-3-3 for Saturday evening’s clash with Leicester City and then possibly, the rest of the campaign and forevermore.
They are Scotland winger Robert Snodgrass, who has featured in every game so far this season, former England man Michail Antonio and youngster and Academy of Football product Grady Diangana.
There are a few other possible candidates but these are the only players in contention that would be a straight swap for Yarmolenko in this formation, unless Pellegrini wants to change his formation entirely, an idea we are going to explore in detail a little later.
One would feel that the 30-year-old Snodgrass would be the favourite, however, if midfielder Pedro Obiang remains out injured, he is likely to continue on in the left side of midfield as against Spurs, opening the door for the out-of-form Antonio or the starlet Diangana.
For the main part of our analysis, we have enlisted the help of our good friends over at wyscout.com in order to compare the three players and find out which one should be Yarmolenko’s permanent replacement in the front three.
To do this, we have brought you the three above graphics from Wyscout, containing each star’s general average statistics from all competitions this season so far, per 90 minutes.
It must be noted that each attacker has played a varying number of minutes for Pellegrini in 2018/2019 thus far, which is why we have selected the averages to be the basis on which we will pit them against each other.
The first stat we are drawn to for the trio is total actions and the rate of success in them, next to their mini heatmaps which tell us they have all only figured in similar positions. As you can see, Snodgrass is the clear winner here with 63.5 per cent success in his busy average 81.97.
When it comes to goals per game, Diangana has been the most clinical with an impressive rate of 1.19, his two for the season coming in a remarkable 8-0 thrashing of Macclesfield Town in the Carabao Cup, a game in which Snodgrass and Antonio also notched their only goals of the season so far.
Snodgrass is the only player to carry any form of assist threat with 0.3 and as we can see, it is the youngest of the trio that shoots the most, although the Scot is the more accurate of the three, Antonio’s threat giving him the highest expected goals rating, 0.53.
The images also tell us that when it comes to passing and long passing and the accuracy for those stats, Snodgrass is king once more with his precision in the wide role, while there are gains for Antonio and Diangana in dribbles. The former has the highest average attempted and the latter is more successful, not surprising for the more skilful duo.
The best player when it comes to duelling is the physical Antonio, once a Hammer of the Year but now believed to be a shadow of the player he was once following injury trouble. He has not only been involved in more duels and aerial duels, but he has also been more successful than Snodgrass and Diangana with them.
The player with the better reading of the game so far this term is the 20-year-old Diangana as he has the most (5.96) average interceptions and the most wasteful in possession is Antonio with 12.03 losses, Snodgrass is the least. However, he does make up for it with the most recoveries on average, as you can see.
Overall, when comparing the three main Yarmolenko-replacing candidates with these stats, Snodgrass is the man that comes out on top, winning the most stats with Antonio and Diangana behind him by some distance. You may argue this is only because of the amount of football he’s played, but in this game, the statistics never lie.
The Rogue Fourth Option
Next, we are going to be analysing an alternative option that Pellegrini will have on the table, a change of formation that would allow a striker to come into the regular starting Xl as opposed to a wide player, warranting a change of formation.
The main candidates in this case, as the forward to come into the team on a regular basis, would be Javier Hernandez, who has just returned from a spell on the sidelines with illness and summer signing Lucas Perez, with Andy Carroll still out injured.
Above, using the fantastic features of buildlineup.com, we show you how Chicharito would slot into the side, alongside Felipe Anderson supporting lone frontman and reigning Hammer of the Year Marko Arnautovic.
This would mean Pellegrini would have to change to what most likely would be the 4-3-2-1 that is shown, although this has to be the least prominent of his options. The Chilean veteran he has never been known to be a manager who would easily waver from his philosophy or change his system, favouring a straight-swap for one of the three players we’ve already mentioned within his preferred and strongest Xl.
In conclusion, our statistical tactical analysis today has found that, if Obiang remains on the sidelines with the knock that caused him to miss out at the weekend with Snodgrass still filling in, Diangana should be the man to take Yarmolenko’s place and complete the front three.
The starlet is in much better form than Antonio and despite the latter’s experience of tricky trips such as the one to the King Power Stadium this weekend, the raw and eager attitude of Diangana, mixed in with his impressive stats, should be too much for Pellegrini to ignore. He has already put a lot of faith in him, but nothing can be ruled out as West Ham look to appropriately fill the sizeable void left by Yarmolenko’s absence.