Hard work and smart decisions. Not every team has billions at their disposal, so the ones that don’t must be different. In the 2018/19 season, Eintracht Frankfurt had their best season since being promoted in 2012, an amalgamation of 5+ years of intelligent running of a football club.
2016 saw Croatian manager Niko Kovač take control. And in 2017/18 they finished 8th and earned qualification to the Europa league after lifting the DFB Pokal. Their first trophy since 1988
In April 2018, manager Kovač left to join giants Bayern Munich. Despite this, they finished 7th and reached the Semi Finals of the Europa league under new manager Adi Hütter. An agonising penalty shootout ended their run at the hands of eventual winners Chelsea. But the team had made an impact throughout Europe.
Their front 3 of Jović, Haller, and Rebić netted a total of 40 goals that season. The three disbanded and Jović earned a transfer to Real Madrid. Rebić joined AC Milan on loan, and for Haller: a £45 million move to West Ham.
The clubs’ record signing, big things were expected from the Frenchman. A 5-0 thrashing away to champions Man City started the season poorly, but the two following games saw Haller net 3 goals. West Ham had finally found the striker they had been dreaming of. It only took 10 years (and 38 attempts).
Fast forward to April and the club sit in 16th and battling for survival. Haller has scored 4 goals in 7 months of football, and provided just 1 assist all season. So where has the spark gone?
Sébastien Haller Analysis
The magic of Haller is that he is a provider as well as a scorer. Beyond his 15 goals last season, the Frenchman provided 9 assists (top 5 in the Bundesliga).
In the fast flowing attack of Adi Hütter’s system, the front 3 were the key. Interchangeable at the front, Haller and Jović were strong and could dominate the defence, while Rebić provided the back up in an advanced 10 role.
The front 3 would bunch up together, causing all sorts of problems for the defence. The strikers would move in opposite directions. One man towards the ball, and the others to the goal. A lay off made, and the others would pounce with speed and efficiency.
Jović is a strong, intelligent striker. We wrote about his play style before his big move in 2019.
The 3-4-3 shape allowed plenty of support for Haller, and he was utilised as part of a system, not the system. From Carlton Cole to Andy Carroll (and plenty inbetween), West Ham have had their share of big strikers who have been their route 1.
A massive 6 foot 3 he is able to hold off his opponents using his strength and size. He can receive the ball with his back to goal, and turn and lay off a pass. He can head the ball on, one header into the path of his teammate. Fantastic in the air, Haller can dominate any defender.
This season he has won 7.6 aerials/game. The most of any player in the league.
But he is being asked to do all this, and also be the person on the end of the aerials. It is simply not possible.
Haller has a natural goalscoring ability. He is able to spot things before anyone else and use that to his advantage. Ice cool in front of goal, his confidence in his own abilities is something that his teammates can feed off, and the defenders can be scared of.
But to do this, he needs to have the support and back up to allow him to not be involved. His fellow strikers at Frankfurt, Jović and Rebić, were just as happy creating as they were scoring. Any of the 3 went to wards the ball. And any of the three could put the ball in the back of the net at the end.
As shown below, the two strikers draw the defenders in, leaving Haller free.
How can West Ham Make the most of Haller?
The strength in West Ham’s attack is astounding. On paper the team should be pushing for top half at least, and soon challenging for Europe. Anderson, Lanzini, Antonio, Yarmolenko to name a few. Add Diangana, Fornals and Bowen and the team should be set for the future.
West Ham have experimented with a 3-4-3 system in the past. Masuaku is not strong enough defensively to hold the right back spot, but is a threat going forward. Insiders say that West Ham would look to sign Thomas Soucek on a permanent basis. And the Czech national would provide the perfect role in midfield. Declan Rice, the defensive cover.
And with Haller used to that formation, building the squad around him, and the former Frankfurt style, would be a great way to get the best out of the Frenchman.
Jarrod Bowen has taken to the league like a duck to water. The 23-year-old has played just 184 minutes and already brought a spark to West Ham that they were desperately missing. He scored an incredible 16 goals in the Championship, and deserves a chance.
Adept in the striker role or at number 10, the young Englishman should be looked at as Haller’s striker partner. The ‘Jovic’ role. Creating or finishing, the two can interchange depending on the situation and confuse and push around the defenders, while the other peels off.
Michail Antonio is another option. Whenever he gets injured, the side seems to slump. And whenever he comes back, he steals the show. Antics off the pitch make some question his dedication, but on the pitch there is no harder worker than ‘the beast’
The Hammers have plenty of competition for the number 10 role. Lanzini, Anderson and Fornals are 3 of the most creative players in the Premier League.
But with Lanzini struggling since a return from injury, and Anderson having a poor season, Pablo Fornals should be looked at. He can create and he can score. The issue, however, will be his strength.
The signing of Sébastien Haller had huge potential. Last season the Frenchman had 26 goal contributions and European semi-final experience.
But West Ham signed the striker looking for a replacement for Carroll, Arnautović and Hernandez. A player that can play 3 different roles at once. It is not fair on the striker, and his performances are suffering as a result.
It reached the point where he has been dropped to the bench for ‘underperforming’ an unperformable role.
The side need a shakeup. Not in players, the foundations are solid. If they can hold on to Rice (among interest from Chelsea and Arsenal) they could be more than solid.
The shakeup needs to be in tactics. It is a difficult decision to build a team around one player, but is it any more difficult for the fans than another year of relegation battles?