Six months into his West Ham and Premier League career, it is fair to say that Sebastien Haller hasn’t yet lived up to his record price tag.
West Ham bought the Frenchman for £45 million in the summer of 2019, not just as a replacement for Marko Arnautovic, but as an improvement on the mercurial Austrian. His reputation made promising progress during his last season at German outfit Eintracht Frankfurt, as he hit 20 goals in all competitions while providing a further 12 assists.
This was mainly achieved as he played with strike partner Luka Jovic – who earned himself a move to La Liga giants Real Madrid after a scintillating season. Since his move, however, Sebastien Haller has too often found himself without a strike partner, leaving him isolated and ultimately ineffective.
His strengths of link-up play and interchanging with team-mates are not being put to their best use as there is simply nobody to enhance those attributes with. As expected, most of the 22’s better performances during the season have come when a strike partner has been present, or at least with an advanced midfielder who has shadowed him.
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Probably most notably, this includes his display away to Southampton, where he netted the winning goal, as Michail Antonio partnered him throughout the game, which showed off both of their skill-sets.
Unfortunately with Antonio’s repeated injury struggles, the opportunities for this partnership to remain consistent have come too few and far between. With Albian Ajeti’s lack of chances, for reasons nobody is exactly sure about, a potential partnership that could have formed into a delightful French-Swiss cheese has been routinely denied.
The lack of options available to Manuel Pellegrini, and now David Moyes, have proved to be a struggle as they have looked for Haller to hit the heights that everyone expects of him. The sale of Javier Hernandez at the end of the summer transfer window now seems a more peculiar decision by the week, as the Mexican could have helped replicate Haller’s partnership that he formed with Jovic last campaign.
It doesn’t look as though the owners are prepared to invest in another striker during the January transfer window, so these same problems may continue to the summer at least. The problem being the elephant in the room – a fight for Premier League survival.
It may sound like I am blaming everyone bar the player himself, but that isn’t the case. Haller will, deep down, be disappointed with his level of performance for most of the season and will know that he needs to be more consistent.
His body language, at times, has irked West Ham fans but most are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt as he also looks like his dog has just died even when he has scored a tremendous goal.
It is now up to David Moyes to find the answer to the question that is on everyone’s lips – how can he help find the best form of Seb Haller? If the Scot has a similar effect on him as to how he transformed Arnautovic’s West Ham career, it could prove vital in keeping the club in the big time.