Things are changing in east London. Gone are the days of signing the likes of Benni McCarthy and the signing of Sebastien Haller is an indication of the direction West Ham are heading.
Manuel Pellegrini and co. are beginning to turn the tides in Stratford, injecting an influx of youthful, quality players capable of driving the club towards the top half of the Premier League.
The latest to arrive in east London is France striker Haller, joining from Eintracht Frankfurt for £45million – making him West Ham’s most expensive transfer in history.
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) July 17, 2019
However, one thing has held back the Hammers over the past two decades – the absence of a top-quality striker.
You have to date back to the 1999/00 season to find the last player to score 15 or more Premier League goals for West Ham – that man was Paolo Di Canio, netting 16 times in 30 league appearances.
But is that about to change with West Ham’s new striker?
The France striker demonstrated his range of qualities last season, proving he will offer the Hammers more than just goals. Throughout the 2018/19 campaign, the 25-year-old scored 20 goals and chipped in with an impressive 12 assists in 39 appearances for the German club, highlighting his ability to influence a game in more ways than one.
Of course, the desired asset you want from your striker is goals, but Haller is more than that.
Not only does Haller inherit a unique, goalscoring ability, his creativity should not be undervalued.
Last season, his Expected Assists (xA) figure was 5.27, which he surpassed with nine league assists. His ability to link-up and provide for his team-mates while being a danger himself is an unprecedented difference in east London. His versatility and competence in both scoring and providing is a different calibre of player the Irons have become accustomed to.
Sébastien Haller is 25, French and loves a goal
He’s scored 84 in 175 games over the last five seasons…
Now he could be on the verge of joining the Premier League pic.twitter.com/2kQ1ytIMVf
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) July 16, 2019
The main attribute missing from West Ham strikers over the years is consistently scoring goals and the new 25-year-old signing will be confident of rectifying that. Haller’s Expected Goals (xG) in the Bundesliga last season was 12.6, but ending up netting 15 times. Those numbers demonstrate the France striker’s ability to score ‘normal goals’ – a clinical finisher is the missing dimension to Pellegrini’s project.
With attacking options like Felipe Anderson, Manuel Lanzini, Pablo Fornals and Jack Wilshere supporting Haller, West Ham fans can start to get excited.
At 6″3, Haller can be deployed in a variety of ways. His technical ability is exceptional for a tall striker, completing (on average) 1.3 key passes and 1.0 dribbles per match last season.
If the Chilean manager wants crosses into the box, the France striker can provide a valuable aerial threat, averaging 6.9 aerial duels won per match in the 2018/19 Bundesliga campaign.
The 25-year-old has scored 10 or more goals in four of his last five league campaigns, indicating he will be a success at London Stadium. Haller is unproven in English football, though, and whether he will settle in east London remains unanswered.
However, the quality he has to provide for him gives Haller the best possible chance of succeeding, especially with Pellegrini’s attacking, fast-paced philosophy. The Chilean manager has played a huge part in attracting top-quality talent to West Ham.
His ambitious approach coupled with his big-team mentality gives new signings a project to be apart of, with fans optimistic of achieving a Europa League finish should the signings continue in the same vein.
Following last season’s embarrassing 4-2 FA Cup defeat to AFC Wimbledon, the fans are desperate for the Hammers to take cup competitions seriously.
Manuel Pellegrini now has a squad capable of mounting a serious cup run, especially with the strength in depth at his disposal. With the addition of Haller, West Ham occupy one of the best squads outside the top six and the 2019/20 campaign proposes to be a very promising one for the east London club.