Happy 2020 readers of the Bundesliga Bulletin! This is the short version of the report on Erling Braut Håland, if you’d like to read the entire thing (it’s about another 1300 words) on his weakness, fit at BVB and predictions on his output, do consider becoming a paid subscriber here:
Strengths: size, speed, game intelligence, goals, combinations
What jumps off the tape is Håland’s superb understanding of game situations, or his game intelligence. He almost never makes a wrong off ball run, is superb at finding the blind side of defenders and has great speed to exploit space. He’s obviously bigger\stronger than all fullbacks and probably has better speed than 90% of them. The average CBs - think Nikola Maksimovic - often don’t have much of a chance against his first 5-10 yard burst and are caught by surprise. What’s more he’s done well against some of them younger, more promising ones like Jhon Lucumi (exceptional recovery speed at Genk), muscled Sergio Ramos off the ball in preseason and even gave world class CB Kalidou Koulibaly the slip a couple times. The two players he struggled against were Raphael Varane, who saved at least 2 goals in that aforementioned preseason match, and Virgil van Dijk, who obviously gets beat like once every 2 years. Given that most people would probably rank Varane and VVD in the top 3 CBs I’m gonna say that’s pretty great. (Weirdly Kurt Zouma had a lot of success vs Håland in the 5-3 preseason match.)
You’ve probably noticed by the absence of the Austrian Bundesliga CBs that the sample size of him going up against quality central defenders is small. For one, RBS have been cornering the CB market from the days of Hinteregger/Upamecano/Caleta Car to the current crop of Ramalho/Onguene/Pongracic/Wöber/van der Werff. That leaves the second best team, LASK with a less than brilliant back 3 of Wiesinger (error prone, but versatile 24-year-old) Trauner (27, an immobile aerial monster) and Filipovic (29, the best of the bunch but not young), and it’s not like the rest of the league has a lot of CB talent. The less said of the 9 goals he scored vs Honduras’ U20 CBs, the better for their sake. Here is an example of the Norwegian just dusting Tirol CBs and slotting him Okugawa’s pass.
That exceptional speed is also put to good use, as Håland also loves to drive forward when he identifies space. Whether that’s on either wing (prefers to go left, naturally because he’s a leftie and he plays in a 4-2-2-2 as the LCF) or centrally on counters, he’s very demonstrative with his hands, showing the runs to his teammates and almost always catches up to the ball, often fooling or even rounding the keeper in the Norwegian league. He’s also somewhat effective at creating for others, but most of his key passes come via counterattacks.
The one slight negative with his speed is his perhaps awkward running style, it’s a kind of half-hunched, half speed skater push. While this gives him great acceleration, it can look strange and there are times when he can’t sort his feet out and the ball sort of hits in the leg/ankle in through ball situations. Nevertheless, he’s a very good\agile dribbler, who can beat 1-2 players off the bounce, although he does prefer to go across his body to the middle almost every time. That’s quite good for shooting locations, but I wonder if it doesn’t make him a little predictable, though with his size\speed he is still gonna get by people even if “they know it’s coming”.
That above sequence of Håland laying the ball off then running into space between defender is almost a trademark, he’s scored several similar goals like this. With an average of 16 passes per game and only going over 30 twice, he is not that often involved in possession (despite being a decent hold-up player) but is comfortable receiving the ball anywhere on the pitch as the Statsbomb data shows.
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