West Ham United striker Sebastien Haller has had a difficult start to life in Claret and Blue. After scoring four goals in his first seven Premier League matches last season, the Frenchman finished his debut campaign with a miserable seven goals and one assist.
This season, Haller has made the best start of his career, scoring five times in six matches in all competitions. Yet, when the starting XI against Leicester City was announced earlier today, the Hammers’ record signing was once again confined to the bench.
Sebastien Haller Has a Future With West Ham United
Signed from Eintracht Frankfurt for £45 million last summer following an impressive 33 goals in 77 appearances, Haller’s league contribution this season has been restricted to 30 minutes and one goal across three substitute appearances.
In the League Cup, the 26-year old bagged four goals in three matches. However, he cut a frustrated figure during Wednesday’s defeat at Goodison Park.
It was a performance that fans have come to expect from the Frenchman who, rather unfairly, is the favourite to become the next name on an extensive list of shocking West Ham signings. But is it actually bad management, rather than lack of talent, that is holding Haller back?
Here are three formations that West Ham could deploy to justify Haller’s price tag and turn the striker from a flop to a fans’ favourite.
5-4-1: Antonio on the Left, Haller Through the Middle
To compensate for West Ham’s well documented defensive frailties, David Moyes’ current formation of choice is the 5-4-1, and it worked excellently against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Arthur Masuaku and Aaron Cresswell’s unlikely left-back tag-team neutralised Adama Traore to the extent that the Spaniard was substituted after 62 minutes. The three centre-backs in combination with Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek made the middle of the park more crowded than Selfridges on Black Friday.
Unfortunately, an extra man in defence means one fewer up-front and in a straight battle of form, Antonio triumphs over Haller. However, Moyes could move Antonio onto the left-wing in place of Pablo Fornals and field Haller up top.
Although leading the line isn’t Haller’s favoured position, the 26-year old is physical, good with his head and a natural finisher in the box. Antonio, meanwhile, is West Ham’s go-to utility man, having played in every outfield position except centre-back over the course of his career. The England international has 25 goals and 21 assists in 91 career appearances on the left of midfield and his unselfish service would perfectly complement both Haller and Jarrod Bowen on the opposite flank.
This season the 4-2-3-1 has been the Hammers’ formation in the cup. It worked well against League One opponents Charlton Athletic and Hull City but came unstuck in dramatic fashion against Everton. The midfield three at Goodison Park didn’t feed Haller, Mark Noble and Robert Snodgrass failed to provide the stability of Soucek and Rice. Meanwhile, the defence was a mishmash of unfamiliar pairings.
However, towards the end of last season, Moyes deployed this set-up with reasonable success – West Ham took 12 points from nine matches, scoring 14 and conceding 12 – which suggests it was the players selected and not the system at fault on Wednesday night.
To make it work this season, Haller should lead the line with Antonio on the left, Bowen on the right and Fornals or Noble playing at number 10. Number 10 is Fornals’ natural position, making it all the more baffling that West Ham have persisted with farming him out on the left-wing.
Noble, meanwhile, surprisingly shone in the position last season, most notably against Norwich City, where he deployed terrier-like characteristics to nip at the Canaries defence and press players into mistakes. At 33, he doesn’t have the stamina to do this week in week out, but could share the role with Fornals to great effect.
In answer to any concerns regarding West Ham’s defensive frailties, in comes new signing Vladimir Coufal. The Czech spent two seasons with Slavia Prague, playing as a right-back in a four-man defence and oozes strength and stability at the back. His arrival at the London Stadium reopens the discussion around a back four and provides the defensive solidity to allow Moyes to embrace a more attacking mindset.
4-4-2: Haller the Provider
Haller arrived at West Ham last summer off the back of the most productive season of his career. In 41 appearances in all competitions for Eintracht Frankfurt, the then 24-year old scored 20 goals and provided 10 assists. In fact, before moving to London, Haller had failed to reach double-figure goals in the league just once in his last five campaigns. So where did it all go so wrong last season?
Unfortunately for Haller, West Ham were blinded by the goals column and thought they could put the Frenchman in any system with the same results. Wrong.
Haller made 29 Bundesliga appearances for Eintracht in his career-best season, playing 25 of those matches alongside a striker partner, scoring 12 goals and providing eight assists. His 15-goal total was bettered only by regular strike partner Luka Jovic.
Haller isn’t a goal poacher in the mould of Javier Hernandez. Instead, whilst playing in the Bundesliga, he earned comparisons to David Trezeguet. Strong, hard-working, the vision to play in a better-positioned team-mate or convert with either foot himself.
Playing alongside a strike partner clearly allows Haller to express a second facet of his game – “Haller the Provider” – and in tandem with Antonio, he has the potential to be one half of a deadly forward duo.
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