45-Million-pound signing Sebastien Haller struggled in his first season with the hammers, netting only 7 times in his 32 Premier League appearances, but now could be the perfect time for the Frenchman to prove his worth to the club.
Haller has had his fair share of critics over the past 12 months, and to be fair it is completely understandable. The 6”3 striker arrived at West Ham off the back of a hugely successful season in Germany with Eintracht Frankfurt, where he contributed to 24 goals in the 18/19 season, scoring 15 and assisting 9. As you can imagine, stats like these made West Ham fans drool at the prospect of Sebastien leading their line, yet the player now seems the shadow of his former self.
Recruited by Manuel Pellegrini, Haller joined what seemed to be a high-flying West Ham United side who had just finished 10th in the Premier League. Hammers fans felt as though the upcoming 19/20 season offered the perfect opportunity for their squad to push for European football, with the stellar signings going hand in hand with this vision.
As you will all be aware, this was far from the reality, and the hammers found themselves in a very much unexpected relegation battle, with them ultimately surviving the drop. Fans were quick to throw the blame onto their record signing Sebastien Haller, after his form appeared to massively drop off during a period they would have needed it most. Instead, it ended up being 29 year old Michail Antonio who stepped up to the plate, scoring a plethora of crucial goals post-lockdown to spring the hammers to safety.
Off the back of this, Haller was dropped to the fringes of the squad for the 20/21 season, with new boss David Moyes clearly appreciating Antonio’s crucial run of form that helped him keep his job after Pellegrini was sacked on the 29th December 2019, with the club lying in 17th.
The start of the 20/21 season offered Haller the chance of a fresh start, many fans thought, with them keen to see the clubs record signing thrive under Moyes’ new setup. Unaware to the fans, Moyes clearly preferred Michail Antonio over the French-man, and began to build the squad around the now 30 year old Michail, sending Felipe Anderson on loan to Porto and giving Pablo Fornals a more important role in the squad.
The season began with Sebastien Haller performing to the best of his ability in the EFL Cup, against lesser opposition such as Hull City and Charlton Athletic. Fans then called for Haller to be promoted to the starting eleven once more, with many feeling as though he deserved a second chance at leading the line. Unfortunately, this was not to be, and Antonio continued to grab his opportunity in the starting eleven with both hands, guiding the team to impressive results against Wolves, Leicester City, Tottenham and Manchester City.
Much to Haller’s interest, Antonio appeared to pick up a knock during West Ham’s impressive 1-1 draw against Manchester City, limping off the pitch with what appeared to be another hamstring injury that had already caused him massive problems in the past. With Antonio now reportedly set for 4 weeks on the side–lines, this represents a massive opportunity for Seb to prove his critics wrong and help keep up the clubs current excellent run of form.
One of the biggest reasons Haller was dropped to the fringes of the squad was due to his performances in the old 4-2-3-1 setup, with this system needing the striker to operate alone, which was not the kind of football he would have expected to be playing after being recruited by ex-manager Manuel Pellegrini. However, Moyes has recently altered the system and leaned towards a 5-2-3, with the two wing-backs and two wingers providing excellent support for the striker. This will have come as great news to Sebastien, with his success at Frankfurt coming around due to his ability to link up with other forwards, shown through his impressive tally of 9 assists in the 18/19 Bundesliga season.
The deadline day signing of Said Benrahma may also become crucial to Haller re-igniting his West Ham career, with the pacey winger signing from Brentford just before the window closed. Jarrod Bowen will also become imperative to Moyes, with the winger’s pace and tireless pressing proving crucial to the current hammers setup, and with the potential re-addition of Sebastien Haller, Jarrod will become un-droppable.
In the new and so far impressive 5-2-3 setup, Jarrod Bowen and Said Benrahma will be able to play off the 6″3 Frenchman, with Haller being given the freedom to operate in a “Plan B” system that will strongly resemble that of the Eintracht Frankfurt one Haller thrived in, allowing David Moyes to cope with Antonio’s injury sufficiently. Statistics don’t lie, and his impressive history with Luka Jovic in the 18/19 Bundesliga season will once again provide hammers fans with something to look forward to, with them hoping he will be able to rekindle his past-form when playing alongside Bowen and Benrahma under Moyes’ new 5-2-3 setup.
The next few weeks could prove career-changing to Sebastien, with fixtures such as Fulham(H) Sheffield United(A) and Aston Villa(H) giving him the perfect opportunity to re-ignite his career.
featured image credit sky sports