For some time now, I have asked myself whether or not West Ham have an actual transfer strategy. Every transfer window the Hammers spend money, recently quite large sums, but have got little in return. Last summer’s addition of Felipe Anderson turned out to be better than it seemed on paper. The forward tallied nine goals and four assists. The goals were especially significant as it was 3.47 goals more than his Expected Goals (xG) tally of 5.53.
Yet, West Ham still had issues. Marko Arnautovic was a headcase as always and lobbied for a transfer that he finally got this summer. Others like Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez managed just seven goals and one assist.
West Ham dipped into the transfer market for an attacking player once more this offseason and they signed French striker Sebastien Haller from Eintracht Frankfurt. The Hammers paid a record £45 million for Haller, a target man that can score through the air and from balls played to his feet in equal measure.
Haller was part of Eintracht Frankfurt’s phenomenal team that made it to the Europa League semifinal last season and nearly eliminated Chelsea after 210 minutes of pulsating football.
The Frenchman had a great season in the Bundesliga under first-year Eintracht Frankfurt manager Adi Hutter. Along with forwards Luka Jovic (who was sold to Real Madrid for £53m) and Ante Rebic, Eintracht Frankfurt played teams off the pitch. At least, until the added games caught up with them in the spring and heads dropped following their Europa League elimination.
Haller scored 15 goals last season in the Bundesliga, five more than West Ham’s leading scorer Arnautovic. He blew past is xG of 13.69, which is something Haller did in his first season in Germany as well. The 2017-18 season saw Haller score nine times compared to his 6.98 xG. He may have tallied more in his first season, but manager Niko Kovac preferred to play one striker instead of three in a defensive, counter-attacking team.
The Frenchman’s assists last season were even better than West Ham’s leading assist man Mark Noble. The West Ham midfielder tallied five assists compared to Haller’s nine. The striker’s Expected Assist numbers were shattered as well as he topped the 7.37 figure that was set for him.
Haller’s quality cannot be questioned, but will he get the service he needs as West Ham’s No. 9?
West Ham have also added Pablo Fornals from Villarreal this summer. Fornals arrived for £24m, but his addition goes back to the lack of strategy West Ham have shown. Yes, he played for a Villarreal team that battled relegation down to the wire. But Fornals’ stats show underachievement at Villarreal in back to back seasons.
Fornals scored two goals and added three assists in 2,486 minutes of football in La Liga last term. He averaged over 70 minutes per match in the league.
Both Fornals’ xG and xA targets were missed. The attacking midfielder was 2.41 assists off of the xA total he should have had.
So, have West Ham turned a corner, or is the signing of Haller just one good move out of a number of bad ones?