Why Sebastien Haller’s transfer to West Ham failed

Stefan Bienkowski
Stefan Bienkowski
  • Updated: 19 May 2021 15:43 BST
  • 4 min read
Why Sebastien Haller’s transfer to West Ham failed

After a notable resurgence under new manager David Moyes, West Ham now seem intent on rebuilding their squad under the instructions of their new boss. 

The London club aren’t expected to spend a fortune in the January transfer window, and have begun making moves to free up spaces in the squad and value capital to make additions to the team. 

One such departure seems to be striker Sebastien Haller, who joined the club in 2019 for a record fee of £45 million. He now seems likely to be leaving to make the move to Ajax for just £25 million.

But before Haller leaves the Premier League, it’s worth wondering why West Ham’s most expensive signing ever failed to make the grade. 

Why did Haller’s transfer to the London club go spectacularly wrong?

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  • LeagueGoals + Assists per 90 minutes
    Dutch Eredivisie0.58
    German Bundesliga0.62
    English Premier League0.29

    What kind of player did West Ham sign?

    With just 14 goals and three assists from 53 appearances for West Ham, it’s easy to take a quick look at Haller and assume he simply wasn’t good enough for the Premier League. But a closer look suggests the English club completely misused his talents. 

    In the season prior to West Ham’s remarkable offer for Haller, the Ivory Coast forward made his name in the Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt. At the German club Haller managed no less than 33 goals and 19 assists in just 77 games, following an equally impressive spell in Holland with FC Utrecht. 

    The most notable stat to take note of here is that Haller was almost as good at creating goals as he was at scoring them. In the 2018/19 campaign he averaged 0.53 goals per 90 minutes and, importantly, 0.29 assists per 90. 

    Rather than just being a target man or goal scorer, Haller was a dynamic player that dropped into midfield to set up attacks and goal scoring chances for his team mates. Although he arrived in England as a tall, goal-scoring forward, it’s worth bearing in mind that the Ivory Coast wasn’t even Frankfurt’s top goalscorer that season – Luka Jovic with 27 goals – but was just one assist from being their key playmaker. 

    Haller’s goalscoring and playmaking record in Europe’s top divisions

    How West Ham misused Haller 

    When we look back at Haller’s time at West Ham it’s clear that the eggheads at the London Stadium simply ignored the forward’s playmaking ability and assumed he was a target man that could either receive long punts up the pitch and header home crosses in each game. 

    After averaging 0.29 assist per 90 minutes at Frankfurt in 2018/19, Haller’s playmaking dropped dramatically to just 0.04 assists per 90 along with his goals average essentially halving to 0.26 goals per 90.

    Haller’s aerial duels per game rose, his dribbling per game dropped and the amount of key passes he created per match dropped from 1.09 to just 0.65. After a successful season as one of Frankfurt’s most creative players, Haller ended the 2019/20 season with just two assists in 34 games for West Ham. 

    The Premier League club’s complete inability to get the best out of the forward is perhaps so obvious that it’ll come as no great surprise that Ajax, having most likely watched the Ivorian forward at Utrecht and Frankfurt, probably know there’s a perfect capable forward there when used properly. 

    Perhaps Haller wasn’t good enough for the Premier League or maybe he peaked too early in his career in Holland and Germany, but it seems far more likely that the striker’s transfer to West Ham simply didn’t work because they never played him to his strengths.