Sebastien Haller: Was West Ham’s record signing unusable or unused?

Sebastien Haller of West Ham United. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Sebastien Haller of West Ham United. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images) /
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So which is it, unused or unusable?

It’s a hard one; every West Ham fan will argue differently, and most are just happy the Haller debate is over.

I will stick with what I said from the beginning – Haller needed to play in a two or at least have someone within 20 yards of him when he got the ball. Signing a striker that can’t play up front on his own for a club that often doesn’t have the resources or capabilities to play without the extra midfielder/defender that system grants you is, at best, inexcusable. The fault lays as much at Haller’s feet as it does with the scouting network that naively saw West Ham playing two up front every week. We can dream, but let’s be realistic. Please. We’re not Madrid.

Plainly, Haller is not an out and out goalscorer. This is a generational thing. I tell my Dad that West Ham have spent £45 million on a striker who isn’t an “out and out goalscorer” – and he’ll look at me like I’ve just said that “moving away from Upton Park was a good idea”.

Yes, Haller is a striker, but stick with me. Haller is a modern striker. I know that sounds pretentious – that is because it is – but Haller was never going to be an Alan Devonshire. He wasn’t going to rack up the numbers of Tony Cottee or Frank McAvennie. He isn’t that sort of player – (I have to use examples like this because West Ham haven’t had a decent striker for a while).

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West Ham weren’t signing a twenty goal a season centre forward. At Frankfurt, Haller’s goal returns were good, but not prolific. He scored 9 in 31 (2017-18) and 15 in 29 (2018-2019) in his final two Bundesliga seasons. He wasn’t just a goalscorer, however, he was central to Frankfurt’s success. In his final season in the Bundesliga, Haller had direct involvement in 24 goals – a feat only surpassed by Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski.

Haller’s role in Germany was similar to Olivier Giroud for France, who holds up the ball and gives it to Kylian Mbappé or Antoine Griezmann. A player of this style is a wonderful asset – if it suits the system. After all, Didier Deschamps sees Giroud as one of his most valued players in a stacked French side.

The issue is West Ham don’t have players of that quality. Brutal, but true. They don’t, and probably never will. West Ham can’t play possession football with the current crop of players because they aren’t good enough to do it. For right or wrong, Moyesy-ball is the way forward and Haller is not.

It will be interesting to see how Haller gets on at Ajax. Sadly, I think West Ham have missed out on a player of real quality. Next year, Champions League nights will see Hammers fans bemused at how the player in the red and white of Ajax is the same bloke that looked so subdued in claret and blue.

Whatever your thoughts on why it didn’t work, all Hammer’s will be disappointed in his departure. He became a recording signing that only really created a broken record of noise around his performances.

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Now, with Haller gone,  West Ham have one striker at the club – and, whilst Antonio is class, he’s a midfielder with battered hamstrings. The time has come once again for West Ham to find the striker they’ve been trying to recruit for over 11 years – and couldn’t buy with £45 million.