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Sébastien Haller

Eintracht Frankfurt to West Ham, £45m

West Ham paid a club-record £45m to sign Sébastien Haller from Eintracht Frankfurt in their pursuit of a new striker, during a summer in which Andy Carroll left when his contract expired, Lucas Perez was sold to Alaves, and Marko Arnautovic left for Shanghai SIPG.

Agreeing a five-year contract with the option of an additional 12 months, Haller arrived having scored 20 goals in 41 appearances during 2018/19 for the Bundesliga side, amid a wider total of 33 in 77 during the two years in Germany that followed his 51 in 98 with Utrecht, in the Netherlands. The Frenchman, who has represented his country at every age group up to and including under-21 level, had joined the Dutch outfit from Auxerre, who were impressed by his performances at the 2011 edition of the Under-17 World Cup.

His direct involvement in 24 goals in the Bundesliga in 2018/19 – he scored 15 times and made nine assists – was surpassed by only Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, perhaps justifying the fact that his transfer fee comfortably eclipsed the £36m West Ham previously invested in Felipe Anderson. “A bulldozer couldn’t knock him over”, former Bayern coach Niko Kovac once said.

Tactical analysis
Haller’s style of play is similar to that of David Trezeguet, and his goalscoring touch – with both feet – is gradually improving to a high level. He is also powerful, so therefore poses an aerial threat and proves capable of outmuscling opposing defenders.

If his build is similar to that of a traditional target player, his direct movements can also encourage a penetrative build-up from midfield; the Frenchman is as capable of running in behind as he is of withdrawing to build and link play, meaning he can also contribute to both transitional attacks and through sustained possession. Once in behind opposing defences he can similarly be relied upon to finish when one-on-one.

When the target of direct, vertical passes or set-pieces, Haller offers the ability to flick possession on to teammates, or to control passes into his chest and feet, even while under pressure. By delaying and correctly timing passes or holding off defenders while linking play the striker gives his teammates the freedom to advance, which is a particularly influential attribute while playing as a lone striker. He also remains sufficiently explosive that he can burst clear.

Throughout 2018/19 his ability to play any of the three roles across a narrow attack contributed to Frankfurt’s success – he drifted into inside channels to encourage Ante Rebic and Luka Jovic to advance, and to create against smaller full-backs who often struggled against his athleticism.

Role at new club
While Haller’s role within a narrow front three demonstrated his finest qualities, when he is used as a lone striker he requires supporting runners to link with and play in (above), or to use as a decoy to create for himself. If David Moyes wants him to exploit those inside channels for West Ham, he will need to encourage that support so that he doesn’t become isolated.

Much of his previous successes owed to Frankfurt using wing-backs to advance and make a variety of deliveries – often during attacking transitions – for the striker to attack. Ryan Fredericks and Aaron Cresswell are particularly capable of excelling in doing so.

Smaller, agile and technically-gifted individuals playing within central lanes – perhaps Jack Wilshere, Manuel Lanzini, Felipe Anderson, Pablo Fornals or Andriy Yarmolenko – who can create and finish around Haller’s movements would be a suitable complement to what he will bring to Moyes’ team (above). At Frankfurt, the combination of Haller, Rebic and Jovic offered pace, power, agility, and the finishing touch.

Should Moyes wish to maximise his attacking players’ potential, both the 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 systems Haller’s former club used  could prove most suitable. His movements and versatility in the final third can create spaces, and ultimately encourage his fellow attackers to score.

If that is to be the manager’s preference, he will need to balance his team with two central midfielders capable of shielding his defence, and of quickly transforming a regain into a counter-attack. Declan Rice is suited to such a role, through possessing the necessary qualities to free up those in front of him, in the final third.

Sébastien Haller


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