West Ham United have started this transfer window like they mean business. Having finished 10th last season behind the likes of Wolves, Leicester and Everton, Manuel Pellegrini’s side have wasted no time in clearing out dead wood and bringing in quality players. The Hammers finally gave in to Marko Arnautovic’s wishes and allowed him to leave for China, as Pellegrini feared that the Austrian would be a disruptive influence in the dressing room. Andy Carroll was released, while Lucas Pérez was also sold to Deportivo Alavés, thus leaving only Javier Hernández as a striking option at the London Stadium. While West Ham were initially targeting the Argentinian forward Maxi Gómez, he preferred to move to Valencia from Celta Vigo as they could offer him Champions League football. Thus came about the signing of French striker Sebastien Haller from Eintracht Frankfurt. A fee of £45 million makes him the club’s record signing, but as this tactical analysis scout report will show, it may prove to be money well spent.

Background

Haller has been somewhat of a late bloomer, only coming to the notice of European football in the last couple of seasons. He started his career at French club Auxerre, appearing for the reserve and senior sides before being loaned to FC Utrecht in Holland in 2015. The Dutch side quickly made the deal a permanent one, and he was voted the club’s player of the year at the end of the season having scored 11 goals in 17 games. His form continued, as he notched 40 goals in all competitions over the next two seasons, leading to a transfer to Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt. He was instrumental in their victory in the 2017/18 DFB-Pokal, where they beat Bayern Munich in the final, while he formed a formidable trio with Ante Rebić and Luka Jović last season. Haller scored 20 goals in all competitions last season, and chipped in with 10 assists as well, outlining his all-round contribution to Frankfurt’s attack.

Style of Play

The Frenchman is a powerful centre-forward, capable of using his 6ft 3in frame to bully and dominate defenders. However, he is not a blunt instrument; as his heat map below will show. Haller does a lot of good work outside the box, linking up with teammates and unselfishly bringing his fellow attackers into the game –

Sebastien Haller 2018/19 Scout Report Tactical Analysis Tactics
Note how much of Haller’s work came in the middle of the opposition’s half

The Frenchman is not blessed with exceptional speed, which is also a reason why he tends to drop off and play in front of the box – he simply does not have the pace to run in behind and stretch opposition defences. However, with the likes of Andriy Yarmolenko, Felipe Anderson and Michail Antonio available as pacy, vertical options, this should not be a problem, as Haller can play as a pivot to bring these players into the game through his intelligent passing and movement. He is an intelligent forward, often making unselfish runs to clear a path for his teammates. This was of course influenced by Frankurt’s system, where he usually played alongside Jović in a front two and thus had another striker to occupy the opposition centre-backs. Nevertheless, he should be able to thrive as a lone centre-forward under Pellegrini as well, using his movement to bring any of his teammates offering support runs into play –

Sebastien Haller 2018/19 Scout Report Tactical Analysis Tactics
Haller (at the top of the image) and Jovic making runs on either side of the centre-backs to clear a path for Rebic
Sebastien Haller 2018/19 Scout Report Tactical Analysis Tactics
A similar scenario here – Haller (at the top of the image) and Jovic making space-clearing runs for Filip Kostic

The fact that he managed 10 assists last season is also demonstrative of his well-rounded game. Nine of those assists were in the Bundesliga, making him the sixth-highest assist maker in the league, with his 15 league goals putting him at tenth on the goalscoring charts as well. He has an eye for a pass and an ability to find space, which allowed him to play in teammates –

Sebastien Haller 2018/19 Scout Report Tactical Analysis Tactics
Haller is completely unmarked and in space on the edge of the penalty area…
Sebastien Haller 2018/19 Scout Report Tactical Analysis Tactics
…from where he receives the ball and proceeds to play a chipped cross towards the far post for his teammate to score
Sebastien Haller 2018/19 Scout Report Tactical Analysis Tactics
Another example of Haller’s composure and ability on the ball – he finds Kostic with an inch-perfect pass across the box to set him up for a simple finish

Haller’s aerial ability will also be a potent weapon for the Hammers, especially with the release of Andy Carroll. He won the most aerial duels in the Bundesliga last season, and with flick-ons and lay-offs being a forte, these often allowed him to create chances for his teammates in and around the box –

Sebastien Haller 2018/19 Scout Report Tactical Analysis Tactics
Haller wins the ball and flicks it on towards his teammate in space
Sebastien Haller 2018/19 Scout Report Tactical Analysis Tactics
Here, Haller has drawn a centre-back out towards him, creating space for a run from deep. He chests the ball and plays it into the path of his onrushing teammate who goes on to score

One area in which he will be a big upgrade on Arnautovic is his defensive work. While the Serbian would usually be a bystander when the opposition had the ball, Haller is the complete opposite – no Bundesliga striker made more tackles per 90 minutes than the Frenchman last season. The statistical overview below will shed more light on this aspect of his game, but suffice it to say that Haller will never be castigated for a lack of effort –

Sebastien Haller 2018/19 Scout Report Tactical Analysis Tactics
Haller coming back to make a tackle inside his own half

Statistical overview

The statistics demonstrate his all-round game – according to Wyscout, Haller scored his 20 goals from an xG value of 17.33, thus showing his efficiency in front of goal. This is also demonstrated by his stellar conversion rate of 27%. He had a total pass accuracy of 73.4%, and he also won 49.9% of his aerial duels; both these numbers show his value as a playmaker and not just a goalscorer. His work outside the box is illustrated by the fact that he averaged just 3.8 touches in the penalty box per 90 minutes over last season, which is extremely low for a striker. He got through a fair amount of defensive work as well, with 3.4 ball recoveries and 1.7 interceptions per 90 minutes. One area of weakness is his dribbling ability, with the Frenchman winning just 44% of his attempted dribbles last season.

Conclusion

From our analysis of the tactics, we see West Ham have had trouble finding a consistent striker for years now, with there being a revolving door at the London Stadium in terms of attacking arrivals and departures. That cycle looks to have been potentially broken with this signing. Haller offers all-round ability and a stellar attitude, which could be crucial in the Hammers’ push for European football next season.


Total Football Analysis Magazine #11: July 2019 - tactical analysis tactics
Artwork by @chapulana

If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the July issue for just ₤4.99 here, or even better sign up for a ₤50 annual membership (12 monthly issues plus the annual review) right here.