Sebastien Haller received a dire slice of luck on the cusp of the Premier League’s return from its 100-day break when he sustained a hip injury which has caused him to miss all four of West Ham’s matches since the restart.
David Moyes has indicated that the record signing’s return could be imminent but “whether he is ready to play is a different thing.” The Scot must exercise caution when bringing the striker back into the fold and attempt not to disrupt the successful formula he has discovered over the past two matches.
While the Hammers may have collected four points from their last two matches, it could have easily been six, as blame can be laid at Pablo Fornals’ feet for instantly undoing his teammates’ hard work in allowing Newcastle to draw level. Moyes has found a system that has seen the Irons score five goals in the last two games, and there is a risk that throwing Haller into the mix could unsettle the side.
Michail Antonio, alongside Jarrod Bowen, has been West Ham’s standout performer since the Premier League’s resumption and removing him from his lone striker role with Haller as a replacement would be an incredibly harsh decision. In the last two matches, the Englishman has scored twice and assisted once, and continuing that streak could be the key to ensuring Moyes’ side aren’t sucked back into the bottom three.
Alternatively, Haller could line up alongside Antonio, and the pair have previously formed an effective partnership when deployed in tandem, with the 30-year-old aiding in ending an eight-game drought for the summer signing. But, doing so against Burnley would require a reshuffle of the midfield, which is beginning to look incredibly balanced with Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice screening the defence, which has, in turn, allowed the three attacking midfielders licence to roam and create in forward areas.
Furthermore, Haller will be short of match fitness having not featured since March and instantly including him could be to the detriment of both others around him and his physical condition.
With a formula for success seemingly in place, there is no need for Moyes to rush his top scorer back into the starting eleven against Burnley. A four-point cushion is a nice buffer to the bottom three, and over the course of the last 180 minutes of action, this side has shown enough to suggest they can cope without Haller until he is fully fit to start once again.