Future Stars

Erling Haaland: What's all the fuss about?

The Norwegian wonderkid has chosen Dortmund. But why were so many teams interested?

 
1:20pm on Monday 30th December 2019
By
Paul Macdonald
19 yrs - ST (C) - RB Salzburg
81
Defending
Creative
Passing
Attacking
Shooting
Decisive
Aerials
Physical
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
873
Played matches
12
15
4
Shots P90
4.94
Shots On target P90
2.37
Decisive P90
3
AVG Rating
7.6

It started against Honduras in May and the hype has been real ever since.

Erling Haaland's nine goals in Norway U20's 12-0 annihilation of Honduras led to his name doing the scouting rounds as the 'next big thing'.

Alongside the likes of Martin Odegaard before him, the talent had been crystallised before anyone had really seen him play; those that watched the beyond-amateurish defending from the central Americans also saw the 19-year-old given the freedom of Poland to hit shots to the left, right, and mostly through, a totally inept goalkeeper.

All that being said, it's not every day that a player scores nine in a fixture at this level and there was still plenty to like in Haaland's movement. But the most eye-catching thing was his bloodthirsty desire for goals. All of his runs and glances to find the space were specifically designed to give himself the easiest finish possible.

And in a modern environment where the traditional centre-forward has went so out of fashion that they are, in fact, back in again - look at Robert Lewandowski, Karim Benzema and Ciro Immobile for proof - Haaland most definitely fits that mould. And the form from that game has followed him into what can only be described as an unnatural season at RB Salzburg.

He barely featured in his first year after signing from Molde in July 2018, but his first four months proper in the side have produced breathtaking results. In the Austrian Bundesliga and Champions League combined he has 22 goals (19 non-penalty goals) in all competitions, adding up to a strike every 54 minutes. And it's remarkable how similar so many of his goals are; he takes up residency inside the six yard box and taps the ball home, or he comes in on the left and slots confidently past the goalkeeper. There's barely any deviation from this style. The above clip of his goal at Anfield is very instructive.

His strength, height and deceptive pace make him custom-built to bustle his way into the position he wants to be in - right in front of the sticks. Watching him operate you see him outstrip many a defender in a straight foot race, and outsmart them positionally.

MAKING SCORING SEXY AGAIN

In fact, in a week where Robert Lewandowski scored four Champions League goals in Belgrade and promptly tweeted that he 'is addicted to scoring goals'...

Haaland is making the art of scoring, and nothing but, sexy again. If you compare his numbers to other leading scorers in Europe's top five leagues, you see similar ruthlessness. In fact his profile is strikingly similar to Lewandowski in terms of the quality of the chances he created for himself and his base position camped inside the area, and while his finishing isn't as decisive as Lewy's (seven decisive goals versus four for Erling ) (What is this?) , meaning that his goals are coming in heavy wins against domestic opposition, it doesn't change the fact that he is still there, scoring them.

FORWARD COMPARISON
HAALAND v SIMILARNov 27, 2019
Name GOALS P90xG P90SHOT P90TCH IN BOXAVG Rating
Erling Haaland1.731.024.38.27.6
Robert Lewandowski1.350.775.7118.0
Ciro Immobile1.180.623.87.27.6
Timo Werner0.970.654.26.37.4

But it's key to watch the rest of his Salzburg players in action to understand how he operates within this team. His team-mates look to feed him but only in the right places, in and around the area. The progression up the pitch is designed to get Haaland in the cross hairs, with the likes of Hwang Heechan (seven assists, one big chance created P90) and Takumi Minamino, (four assists, 0.9 big chances created P90) operate to devastating effect around him.

Haaland is a talent, a born goalgetter with all the physical attributes to succeed but his sample size is small and he is playing in a team absolutely built around him. That would be a concern for any team willing to spend whatever Salzburg would want - can they provide him the service he requires?

That will be key, as will be the first spell when the goals dry up and his response to that. Because of his low-key celebrations after Champions League goals and his dry post-match interviews he has been branded as surly and uncooperative but, as his coach notes, this is misdirection - he is just driven.

Boss Jesse Marsch said: "I haven't seen one selfish moment since I've known him in the last six months.

"We went through a time period where he was giving up penalties to his teammates because he felt like he just wanted to share the positive energy.

"This is the kind of young man he is."

The Premier League has always been on his agenda, being born in Leeds and the son of former Elland Road star Alfe-Inge, and Manchester United's interest is known. Given the nature of life at Old Trafford at the moment, it's unclear whether that would be the right move, and though Haaland's trajectory is obvious, he has to reach a club which treats him as well as RB Salzburg do now.

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