Don’t Blame Haller’s Disappointing Time at West Ham on David Moyes

Sebastien Haller of West Ham United. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Sebastien Haller of West Ham United. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images) /

A true marquee signing for a former manager, Sebastien Haller never really got going at West Ham, but it isn’t David Moyes’ fault he failed in the end.

The exceptionality of Sebastien Haller and his goal-scoring/creating abilities prior to coming to West Ham cannot be overstated. One of the hottest striker prospects in Europe, Haller was a sure-fire hit in a reshaped Hammers team focused on possession-based football and a sustained press.

Manuel Pellegrini was getting significant backing from the board and followed up his first big transfer window where Felipe Anderson and Issa Diop were purchased, with the introduction of the centrepiece of his attack, Sebastien Haller.

With consecutive seasons racking up 13 goals and seven assists (2017/18) and 20 goals and 12 assists (2018/19), Haller’s production was trending in the right direction and it was assumed this would continue in East London.

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Fast forward to now, and Haller is an Ajax striker for a cut-price and embarrassingly low fee of £20m after he was initially bought for £45m. With outstanding money owed to his previous club Eintracht Frankfurt, there is likely little to no money left to invest in a replacement, yet Haller, who admits he has been in contact with the Ajax coach for months, will be playing Champions League football.

This narrative should leave a sour taste in West Ham supporters’ mouths. It was us who should be in European football. It is disingenuous to be talking to another team’s coach while contracted to your current team. But can you blame Haller for being excited to move to a team in a league where he can dominate?

Under Pellegrini, Haller makes sense. The striker would have played alongside other forwards and incorporated them into the attack as he did with Juka Jovic at Frankfurt. Arguably a second striker more than target man or striker in general, Haller could not play Moyesball which was painfully obvious to see.

So, who is to blame for the flop of Sebastien Haller? Is this on the player for not adapting to the coach’s system, or is this on the coach for not changing the style to suit the marquee striker? Both and neither seems to be the answer.

An inarguable fact about this situation and the divisiveness of Haller from Hammers supporters is that if Haller ran out the hard yards and looked like he was doing more work, he’d have more fan support. Sure, that’s not his playstyle, but effort should never be negotiable (including perceived effort).

Simultaneously, David Moyes should have switched his team up to play a 4-4-2 infrequently when Haller was needed, starting last year when Moyes returned and continuing into this season. Sticking with a 5-2-3 or 4-2-3-1 with a small playmaker in behind him instead of another striker was stubborn game-planning that eventually did hurt the player.

If we want someone to blame for this entire unsavoury situation, even though in reality there isn’t anyone to blame for anything, it should fall on Manuel Pellegrini for ultimately failing in his time at West Ham. The Hammers were exciting in attack but woeful in defence and were trending towards relegation under his leadership.

The marquee name of Pellegrini attracted players like Haller, but his archaic and gambling gameplan ultimately failed and with it the loaned out Anderson, fifth-choice Diop, and now transferred out Haller have all seemingly failed too.

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It simply comes down to a failed manager’s view on West Ham and the fallout of his transfers that has unfolded at West Ham. It isn’t Sebastien Haller’s fault he wasn’t played correctly, and it isn’t David Moyes’ fault that he inherited a player not suited to his (successful) playstyle. Call it bad luck and poor timing, or perhaps just the West Ham way.