Dean Ashton has likened Sebastien Haller’s growing venture with Michail Antonio to his own successful marriage with Marlon Harewood.
The former England international enjoyed a successful relationship with Harewood during the first months of his West Ham United career, helping the Hammers reach the FA Cup final and secure a top-ten Premier League finish in the spring of 2006.
On Ashton’s debut, playing Harewood, West Ham won 3-2 at Arsenal, and the 36-year-old expects Haller and Antonio can propel the Irons to a similar effect when they return to north London on Saturday.
“Antonio is a complete handful and would be a complete nightmare to play against for any guardian because he has the pace, he is raw and he is as strong as an ox, and I believe his end-product is advancing season as well, which I think is so significant,” said Ashton, who scored 19 goals in 56 appearances in Claret and Blue.
“Personally, when I played alongside Marlon Harewood, who had been a similar sort of player with that power, pace and smart runs, it makes your life so much easier to find distance and be sure you’re in the box once the ball comes in, which is precisely what occurred against Southampton at the weekend.
“When I was those two, I would be licking my lips at the prospect of going up against Arsenal’s centre-backs, since they don’t necessarily enjoy the physical side of this match, and would rather have the ball at their feet and play, so the secret is to look to them, get the ball around them and examine the Arsenal defence with a front line which needs to be feeling confident after what happened last weekend.”
Ashton also sees many facets in Haller’s individual game that remind him of his own.
In his own playing days, Ashton could hold the ball up, flick it on with his feet or head and score many different kinds of goals.
With the ideal support and players around him and his optimism rising after his contribution to the 3-1 win over Southampton, the 2006 FA Cup final goalscorer considers the Frenchman can flourish.
“When you place players around Haller using a bit of speed, such as Antonio and Jarrod Bowen, that is when you find the best of him, once the pressure isn’t always all on himself, and we saw that against Southampton when he really shone,” he observed.
“You have got certain players that are really suited to playing upfront by themselves and are delighted to do a lot of running behind and can get on the end of things and have the pace to be a real annoyance, or you’ve got players like myself, Andy Carroll and Sebastien Haller, who are just like players making runs in and about them, taking away defenders and giving you a free run to actually attack the ball, lay off the ball and envision things around the corner.
“When other players are there, it can really help your game and it was just the same for me when I was playing.”