Why Erling Haaland is perfect for Manchester City

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In one of those weird, everybody knows it’s going to happen inevitable football transfers, Erling Haaland has finally been granted his £64 million move to Manchester City from Borussia Dortmund. With other top clubs floundering under budget restrictions or simply not suiting his style of play, Haaland’s transfer to City has been an anticipated event for over a year. Now that Dortmund have secured the signature of the inevitable replacement in Karim Adeyemi for the inevitable departee, Haaland’s plane ticket to the Etihad has officially been booked. Pep Guardiola’s team already secured the services of Julian Alvarez back in January, with the Argentine set to join the club in the summer. But nevertheless, Haaland adds a new dimension to Manchester City, and provides something they would otherwise lack without him in a strikerless system. Here is why Erling Haaland is perfect for Manchester City.

city’s strikING need

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Manchester City have been just about the most successful team in the history of the game to not play with a recognized centre-forward. While others have deployed ‘false nine’s‘ in the past, Guardiola has taken the concept of a strikerless system to new heights. In any one game, several players may adopt the typical “striker” role, floating in and out of space to accommodate the movement of the others. While Phil Foden may adopt the position most prevalently for the Citizens, midfielders like Kevin de Bruyne, Bernardo Silva or Ilkay Gundogan may frequent in a higher average position in any given match as they float up and Foden drops toward the ball. Then you have goal-scoring, off-the-ball wizards like Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus who are excellent at interpreting when to arrive into the box to finish off chances. But throughout their City careers, both have shown a greater degree of threat and usefulness when deployed on the wing, where they can use their extraordinary pace to get beyond the opposition’s defense.

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Even when any of the above players feature as the false nine, City still generate a plethora of chances delivered right across the penalty area that fail to find a teammate. In part, this is due to a false nine’s tendency to link the play further away from goal, and then arrive late to the crossing party. But in the biggest of games, it’s often elucidated just how much a natural number nine, a penalty box poacher if you will, would add to the City team in finishing off those chances. Erling Haaland just so happens to be one of the best in the business when it comes to finishing off chances, poaching goals in the box, and creating something out of nothing in the penalty area. But he’s far more than just a target man. In fact, the Borussia Dortmund striker is one of the most complete centre-forwards on the planet.


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Often likened to a machine, Erling Haaland has the pace and power to match any Premier League defender imaginable. Excellent on the break and extraordinarily deadly when given space to run beyond an opposition’s defense, Haaland also thrives with his back to goal. This is an area of his game that people often assume, without watching him, that he would struggle with in a Manchester City system that relies so heavily on possession-based football and every single player taking part in the process.

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But Haaland is one of the best back-to-goal strikers in the world, capable of not only using his strength to hold off unwanted defenders, but in playing the right pass and the simple one-two’s to advance his team up the pitch. He’s formed a remarkable partnership with Marco Reus for exactly this reason, where the Norwegian can bounce the ball to the Dortmund legend and release him into space – particularly on quick attacking transitions. As the left-footed forward spins the defender and sprints into space following the bounce, Reus can then drive up the pitch and create for Haaland closer to goal. While City are not a counter-attacking team (Dortmund aren’t either), they excel on the break and will look for immediate routes to goal when winning back possession in the opposition’s half.

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It’s true that the Citizens tend to keep the ball for longer periods of time than any club (67.9% to Dortmund’s 59% this season). It’s also true that their over-arching preference when winning back possession in their own half is to pass the ball around patiently and work to unbalance the opposition’s structure as they let their rotations and rhythm take centre-stage. But with Haaland’s exceptional back-to-goal ability and raw physicality to hold bulldozing defenders off, he will fit City’s ability to keep hold of the ball.

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Any player coming to City will need to improve their ability on the ball, that’s just a fact of the matter. Haaland’s meek pass completion of 71.8% looks very poor. On the one hand, it situates him significantly below par in comparison to the centre-forwards of Europe’s elite clubs. On the other hand, it’s never been a problem for Dortmund, the Norwegian is constantly under pressure when making passes, and the vast majority of his passes are difficult to pull off. His pass completion is bound to naturally improve under City’s over-exuded patience, in comparison to the urgency Dortmund often have on the break – which is where he does the majority of his damage on the ball. What people sometimes forget when discussing the brilliance of Manchester City is that what they do off-the-ball is far more impressive, and that is an essential component to Haaland’s game.

Further, City’s game is all about opening up corridors of space. Haaland is the type of striker that is always on the move, looking to allow others to adopt high central positions instead. He’s not just your typical target man who sits and stays uninvolved. He’s someone who loves to run the channels, chase down loose balls, and even shift to the side of the ball to engage in Dortmund’s wide overloads. Within City’s underrated long passing game, he can allow his wing wizards to create magic from wide as he waits for the perfect moment to sprint into the box. But when they utilize vertical long passes from the likes of Ederson and Laporte, Haaland will also provide a focal point up top to win headers and bully defenders into the abyss. I genuinely look forward to the day when Premier League pundits and commentators start discussing how Guardiola has improved Haaland’s game with his back to goal or his ability to create chances for others. It’s already a massive part of his game, and one that already allows him to eclipse 99% of the centre-forwards on the planet.

The other obvious facet of Haaland’s game that makes him so remarkable is his uncanny ability to score goals for fun. Haaland scores all kinds of goals – from headers to left foot, right-foot, penalty-kick, and even the odd bicycle kick.

21 goals in 23 appearances this season puts him right up there with the best in the world, at 1.04 goals per 90 minutes. Basically, every 90 minute match that Haaland plays, you can expect him to score a goal. That’s a phenomenal ratio, and something only the likes of Lewandowski, Ronaldo, Messi and Benzema have been able to equal within the past decade. But impressively, once again, Haaland is a genuine chance creator. His assists also sit impressively at 0.4 per 90, with 8 total this season in the Bundesliga. Borussia Dortmund have a host of players who can find the back of the net with ease, but so do Manchester City, and you could easily see his assist numbers increase at a club like City, even if his goal numbers drop. For a detailed analysis of how and why Erling Haaland scores so many goals, see our Erling Haaland – Player Analysis. For now, there are too many other facets of his game worth highlighting, such as his relentless desire to press and chase down the opposition.

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Even when Dortmund had no tangible pressing structures or intentions under previous managers, Haaland did the dirty work all on his own to chase players down and force errors. The Dortmund man’s pressure success rate sits at a reasonable 31.8% this season, and his 8.91 pressures per 90 in the attacking third situates him among some of the best in the division when it comes to pressing from the front – despite Dortmund’s higher possession. Having played for years now in a press and possess, high-tempo, high-possession team, Erling Haaland will undeniably fit Manchester City’s style of play. So stop you’re worrying.


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Erling Haaland just so happens to be one of the best goal-scoring centre-forwards in the universe, joining one of the best teams in the world that have been crying out for a goal-scoring centre-forward. This match made in heaven will naturally work to improve Haaland’s in-possession game, while taking full advantage of his incredible back-to-goal strength, relentless pressing from the front, and inexplicable potency in front of goal. I personally cannot wait to see Erling Haaland in the Premier League, tearing it up and tearing opposition defense’s apart. Haaland is perfect for Manchester City, and should he stay fit, everyone will slowly start to realize it too.

So there it is! Why Erling Haaland is perfect for Manchester City. Be sure to check out more Player Analyses, more on both Haaland’s current club and future club, and follow on social media @mastermindsite to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

You might also enjoy…
-> Erling Haaland – Player Analysis
-> Why Julian Alvarez is perfect for Manchester City
-> Pep Guardiola – Manchester City – Tactical Analysis (2021-22 Edition)
-> Marco Rose – Borussia Dortmund – Tactical Analysis

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