Back in January, I wrote a piece about how Sebastien Haller’s body language was showing signs that he was disappointed in his performances at West Ham and was frustrated with himself.
Fast forward a couple of months and it seems the article was the last straw for the Ivory Coast inter- national as he upped and left for Ajax for just over £22million.
In 13 appearances in red and white he has netted eight times, which is quite an incredible return for someone West Ham fans didn’t rate.
Many of us knew it at the time, but it’s evident now that West Ham and Haller just weren’t the right match. The system didn’t suit him and he struggled to adapt and change his style.
In a recent interview with Talk-Sport, Haller has admitted exactly what I suspected at the time of writing in January – he openly told the station that he was ‘frustrated’ and feels like he has unfinished business in London.
The former Hammer told Jim White that the ‘project’ at West Ham was why he wanted to move here. That’s fair enough, he was probably promised many great things!
There are two statements he followed this up with: ‘It’s never easy to understand why it was not going well and it was not perfect for me the situation in the club.’
And then this: ‘Of course, when everyday people are talking about the price tag they are waiting for something for this money.’
I think that explanation alone goes a long way to explaining why Haller never really met his potential. He was under immense pressure from the moment he arrived, just because of the price tag that had been placed on him. At £45million, he was a club record signing. As a striker, that means the fans are expecting you to score goals galore!
But once negative thoughts start getting into your head, there’s no stopping them if the ball isn’t hitting the back of the net.
Haller added: ‘People see you with another view and expect even more than with someone else, but I can understand that that’s a footballer’s life and I just tried to give my best and perform.’
When I wrote in January, I had spent several games examining the forward’s actions on the field – his head shaking, shoulder shrugging, sighing. A clear sign of his disappointment at not being able to live up to the valuation on his shoulders.
I looked at the interview he gave after scoring that incredible goal against Crystal Palace. This recent interview reflects his demeanour on that night – very friendly and modest. Refusing to talk down about West Ham and not talking himself up.
He has agreed that him moving on was the best opportunity for everyone. It wasn’t working out for him or for the club in East London. But even still, he has moved on without a grudge, accepting that sometimes things just don’t go to plan.
He continued: ‘It was really frustrating to see those games coming and getting no goals. I also had the feeling that I couldn’t really find the perfect place on the pitch or anticipate what my partner will do.’
That is, of course, a nod to never really settling into a position. Moyes didn’t know what to do with him on the pitch and therefore never really gave him a fair opportunity, until it was forced upon him by Antonio’s injury.
He did mention the ‘setup’ not being perfect. But he said it in such a way that suggested it was a multitude of scenarios that didn’t come together.
In fairness to Haller here, he could have used this interview to place blame directly on to the management or the board for signing him in the first place, when he was never really part of the plans. He absolutely didn’t do that.
I’m sure the radio station was hoping to get some juicy quotes to put to David Moyes later on, but the fire wasn’t fuelled.
What came next makes me feel somewhat sorry for the striker: ‘I never usually look back with regrets but of course I feel frustrated because I left without finishing something and that’s a bad feeling.’
He comes across as a footballer (and a man) who is affected by regret. Going back to his goal against Crystal Palace, his reaction suggested he felt he should have done better.
The positive start to his Ajax career gives us a clear indication that he is a good footballer. With some belief in his ability and letting go of a shaded chapter in his career, he will flourish.
When asked if he was hoping to make his name at Ajax, his response suggested that he is comfortable with his abilities but he admitted that he needed to get ‘back to basics’.
He’s not looking to be the one that everyone talks about. He’s looking to fit into a team where he knows what his role is. He said that at Ajax he knows the system well, some of the players and the manager. Which overall has helped him to fit in quickly.
Finally, how does he feel about West Ham now?
He told Jim White: ‘I don’t like to say I think this team will do this or this but I really hope they will finish in the Champions League spots.
‘It will be amazing for the club, the fans and the players as well. With the work they have done, they deserve this.’
No hard feelings here, Haller. We appreciate the sentiment.