Signing Sébastien Haller is Good Business for West Ham – Even at £45m
So, it’s official. West Ham have broken their transfer record for the third consecutive summer with the arrival of French striker Sébastien Haller from Eintracht Frankfurt. The 25-year-old has the task of replacing Marko Arnautovic, another forward who was once their most expensive signing.
Haller was apparently not the club’s first choice – Maxi Gómez chose Valencia over West Ham so he could play in the Champions League – but missing out on the Uruguayan forward may prove a blessing. Haller is nearly three years older than Gómez, but he is a much more complete striker and is better equipped to make an immediate impact.
In fact, West Ham have pulled off a real coup. Following on from the signing of attacking midfielder Pablo Fornals from Villarreal, it is another significant statement of intent from a club whose target should be to narrow the gap to the top six. The same clubs have monopolized the top six places in the league for the last three seasons, but that could be about to change.
The battle for the European places should be fierce this season. Wolves, Everton and Leicester City separated West Ham from Manchester United in sixth last season. However, signing Haller for £45m and Fornals for £24m shows Manuel Pellegrini’s side mean business – and mean business is exactly what their new targetman should prove to be. We ranked him as the fifth most effective player in the Bundesliga last season – and for good reasons.
At 6ft 3in, he is a real handful and he used his physicality to bully defenders in the Bundesliga last season. More than that, though, Haller is a highly intelligent and unselfish focal point to the attack, capable of bringing the best from those around him. He formed a great relationship last season with Luka Jovic, whose fine form for Eintracht Frankfurt earned him a move to Real Madrid this summer. Of the 17 league goals the young Serbian scored last season, 14 came in the 15 matches he played alongside Haller.
Haller was also prolific last season. As well as scoring 15 league goals himself – from a modest 2,181 minutes of action (the equivalent of 24 games) – the Frenchman laid on nine assists (only five players in the whole division set up more goals). Not only will Haller score goals for West Ham but he will also set them up for anyone willing to offer support runs. Andriy Yarmolenko and Manuel Lanzini missed large parts of last season due to injury, but Haller’s arrival should help them return to form.
A man mountain in the air, he won 8.3 aerial duels per 90 minutes in the league last season – comfortably the most in the Bundesliga – at a success rate of 59 percent. Flick-ons and lay-offs are his forte. There are similarities to be drawn with Olivier Giroud in the way he wins headers and links up play around the box.
Crucially for West Ham, Haller is a more clinical finisher than Giroud. Last season he averaged a modest 2.2 shots per 90 minutes (Giroud’s average was 3.5 and Jovic’s was even higher at 3.9). Haller certainly isn’t one to attempt pot shots. As such his conversion rate was excellent; he scored with more than a quarter of his shots (28 percent) and missed the target with just 16 of his 54 attempts (29 percent). He attempted just two shots from outside the box, showing a willingness to bring teammates into play rather than waste possession and go for glory himself.
Haller is also the epitome of a team player who leads from the front. It should take no time for his new fanbase to fall in love with him. No Bundesliga striker made more tackles per 90 minutes than Haller last season and in that sense he is a real departure from his predecessor Arnautovic. While the Austrian had no shortage of quality, his attitude was questionable to say the least. In Haller, West Ham have not only signed an upgrade in terms of teamwork and application, but a striker capable of turning the club into genuine contenders for a European finish.
The Guardian Sport