The 2019-20 Premier League campaign may well still be in its infancy, but there is real reason for optimism on the terraces at West Ham United this season.
While a 5-0 opening day defeat to Manchester City had Irons fans worried, plenty of other top-flight sides can expect the same treatment at the hands of the English champions this season.
However, since that loss to Pep Guardiola’s men, West Ham have got their act together and recorded seven points from the last three games.
The goal this term will be to break into the Premier League’s top echelons and qualify for Europe, with a sixth or seventh-placed finish not beyond Manuel Pellegrini’s men.
When looking at the sports spread betting basics, West Ham are one of the favourites to finish seventh in the Premier League this season, along with Leicester City and Everton.
But, for this to be achieved, West Ham need an attacking talisman to score the required goals consistently and turn defeats into draws, and draws into wins.
The Hammers have not had a prolific centre forward for some time, but club-record signing Sebastien Haller looks to have all the ingredients to fill the void.
West Ham landed the Frenchman from Eintracht Frankfurt over the summer, thus ending a long search for a pedigree-grade striker.
The Irons have been linked to countless centre forwards over the last few years, but deals have not been concluded. There have been false dawns and players signed that have not delivered.
But Haller has been impressive in the early days of the 2019-20 campaign, netting three goals so far in as many games and impressing the supporters with his all-round play.
Given the array of attacking midfield talent at the London club and the creativity in the side, a lethal marksman can be the missing puzzle piece to achieve success.
Haller has shown that he can hold the ball up, is good in the air, has good awareness off the ball and knows where the back of the net is.
West Ham have been reliant on Marko Arnautovic for goals in the last two seasons and in recent times have not had a striker that has delivered over the course of a campaign.
The last Hammers player to score 15 Premier League goals in one season was Marlon Harwood in 2005/06. The last one to score 20 times was John Hartson in 1997/98.
If Haller can score 15 goals this term it would be the first step in West Ham having a real chance of European football in 2020-21 and end the decade-long search for a prolific frontman.
However, despite the excitement surrounding the Frenchman and his ability to make a real difference, Pellegrini’s squad is devoid of proven back-up options.
Although Haller is set to be first choice in leading line, should he get injured or suspended, West Ham are short of ready-made replacements.
Albian Ajeti was signed over the summer after staring for Swiss side Basel, where he scored 14 goals last season and looked like a promising talent.
However, although the 22-year-old has potential, West Ham will want to avoid a scenario where they have to rely on the new man as their sole striker option should Haller be unavailable.
The ideal situation is Pellegrini calling on Ajeti from the bench as an impact sub and to give him more experience by fielding him in the early rounds of the cup competitions.
While the sale of Javier Hernandez to Sevilla late in the European transfer window made sense for all parties, it has left West Ham short in the final third.
The Mexico international did not live up his billing with the Hammers, but his experience and ability to score a goal out of nothing were attributes that the side could call on.
Andy Carroll, Lucas Perez and Jordan Hugill, along with Arnautovic, all left the London Stadium over the summer and there does not appear to be a suggestion that any rising striking stars from the youth ranks are in the pipeline to be included in the Hammers first-team fold.
This means both of West Ham’s current striker options are players new to English football and the club, with the pair finding their feet.
Should Haller be unavailable, one option would be to play versatile attacking midfielders such as Michail Antonio or Andriy Yarmolenko as the furthest man forward, but this plan is less than ideal.
Both players have had their injury concerns and both are more suited to roles in wide positions.
In an ideal world Haller will still fit and firing until January, with the potential for a loan addition or cut-price attacker deal mid-season to add squad depth.
But, despite this, things are looking positive for West Ham with the Frenchman off to a good start this season.