6th October 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
When Andriy Yarmolenko linked up with Borussia Dortmund in a €25 million deal from Dynamo Kiev in the summer, he certainly had big boots to fill.
After all, replacing the departed Ousmane Dembele, who left to join FC Barcelona for a staggering initial transfer fee of €105 million, and provided 20 assists last season and completed more dribbles than any other player in the Bundesliga (with 103), was always going to be a tough ask. But BVB's sporting director in Michael Zorc had full faith in his new acquisition, explaining: "Andriy is a player we've tracked for a long time and who stands for top level football both on club and national team level."
The player himself clearly believed he was ready for this crucial next step in his career, labelling himself as a 'ready made player' and one who firmly knows his capabilities.
While many doubted he had the capacity to replicate the wizardry of Dembele, so far, however, the Ukrainian international is doing an admirable job of living up to the billing. Having started five games and come on as a substitute once, the 27-year-old's gaining vital experience with every passing match as he continues to assimilate himself with Peter Bosz's positional play philosophy. Scoring a wicked goal vs. Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League was the perfect way to announce himself to BVB's diehard fans, and he's steadily gone about making his mark thereafter.
His outstanding performance against Augsburg on the weekend was his best yet too, with the tall attacker scoring a sublime back-heel goal and supplying an ideally weighted lay-off assist for Shinji Kagawa's exquisite chipped second.
Operating in his right wing slot, Yarmolenko proved a constant thorn in the side of his opposition and, in particular, his marker, Philipp Max, who struggled to come to terms with his 1v1 quality and movement. Often instructed to predominantly hug the touchline so he could receive possession and be isolated against his marker, and subsequently use his fantastic dribbling skills to drive at Max in a manner reminiscent of the way Arjen Robben does so for Bayern Munich, he did this with aplomb.
On the less frequent occasions he chose to drift infield into the right half space or deeper into midfield areas, he notably displayed his aptitude in combining crisply with his strong passing game to disrupt the home team's defensive shape. In addition, when he did move away from his wide slot, a teammate, usually Kagawa, would simultaneously occupy his vacated position, with these rotations yet again manipulating the Fuggerstadter defensive structure fruitfully.
Statistically speaking, his three shots, two key passes and the fact he was fouled four times only amplified what a tremendous influence he had on the contest.
Experienced, with a touch of class and a penchant for the spectacular, Yarmolenko's form has been an important element as to why Bosz's team currently sit atop the Bundesliga table, five points clear of Bayern and Hoffenheim. Considering his manager was recently quoted saying his star signing needed time to adapt to his style just weeks ago, it's been extremely promising how well he's progressed since.
Having been involved in five of BVB's league goals in their last four games, plus already opened his scoring account for his new club spectacularly in both European and domestic competition, Yarmolenko couldn't have hoped for a better start. Furthermore, his adjustment to the defensive requirements of Bosz, who demands aggressive pressing and intensity, has been another positive.
Looking to the future, it'll be fascinating to see how the imposing winger goes when the likes of Marco Reus and Andre Schurrle return from injury. But for now, Yarmolenko's doing a super job doing what he's doing, which has also seen him lessen the blow for BVB of losing the wildly gifted Dembele.
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Andriy Yarmolenko is Showing Fantastic Potential for Borussia Dortmund
6th October 2017. By Edward Stratmann.