Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Could Erling Haaland be doing more?

Erling Haaland does not need to score to have an impact. He doesn’t even need to touch the ball. He moves defenders which create spaces for others. The opposition is a man down when he plays, not Manchester City, because two men have to follow him.

Figure 1.1 - John Stones plays Erling Haaland in on goal.
Figure 1.2 - Erling Haaland shoots, but it's right at Andriy Lunin.

Erling Haaland was played in on goal once during the first half of Wednesday’s Champions League match against Real Madrid. This is the ball.

He made a good run, but it’s a tough shot to take from a difficult angle off balance.

Figure 1.3 - Erling Haaland recovers the ball and passes to Jack Grealish.
Figure 1.4 - Jack Grealish has the entire right side of the net open, but his shot is blocked.

The good thing is that he has the awareness to get up and make this simple pass to Jack Grealish. You’d expect that to be planted into the right side of the net. That’s an assist and second goal gone to waste but well set up by Haaland.

Figure 2.1 - Erling Haaland doesn't check/move into this space.

A critique could be that maybe he could try to occupy this space when a pass forward isn’t on, but his movement is controlled.

Pep Guardiola when asked about if he likes how Haaland has played recently:

A lot. A lot. He helps us to create spaces in areas, and his contribution has been exceptional, since the day one he arrived last season.

When asked if the key aspect of his play is to occupy the two central defender’s, Aurélin Tchouameni and Antonio Rudiger, attention to create space for others:

That is the point. […] We score four goals, three goals in the last three games. 11 goals in three games. And he helped us scoring some of them and creating a lot of spaces for the other ones to score a goal. So this is the question. I saw the face and the what he said Erling after the game in the locker room. He was extremely happy, so was a good result and we see what happen next Wednesday.

Manchester City have him making unique runs off-the-ball as a decoy to move opposition center-backs, which opens space for others.

Figure 3.1 - In offensive transition, Erling Haaland runs away from play, dragging Aurélin Tchouameni and Antonio Rudiger with him, to open space ahead of the ball carrier.

In transition to attack, on the counter, Haaland will often run the opposite direction of where the ball is going. He’s not expecting to be played the ball, but his run moves the two defenders. Then when they move, there’s a massive space open ahead.

Figure 4.1 - Erling Haaland checks to the ball when Bernardo Silva has rotated back.
Figure 4.2 - Erling Haaland plays a one-touch pass back to Bernardo Silva.

It’s all very choreographed. The only time you’ll see him move to receive is when certain players aren’t occupying certain spaces. Bernardo Silva moves back so he sees the space, and checks to the ball, then helps circulate the ball.

But notice how congested that right side of the pitch is now. They don’t want him doing that movement back because it draws a center-back with him. There’s less space, and now there’s no one occupying the space central, close to the penalty box.

Figure 5.1 - Erling Haaland curves his run to the back post for the cross, opening space for Phil Foden in the middle of the box.

When there’s a cross, he’ll almost always make the back-post run. That back-post run opens space in the middle for Foden to arrive into.

Figure 6.1 - When John Stones receives the ball out of the triangle on the wing, Erling Haaland makes a run away from the ball.
Figure 6.2 - Antonio Rudiger is drawn towards John Stones and now there's a massive space behind Real Madrid's defense.

Pep Guardiola is all about moving the defenders out of their position, by either making them jump out, or move them away, to create space in the dangerous zones. Attack the center backs.

Haaland is a useful tool because defenses are scared of him, and he did effectively create space for others which resulted in goals at the Bernabéu. It is a team effort to score. There’s so much happening off-the-ball that doesn’t get shown in goals or assists column, and you can’t fault the player if they’re tasked to play an auxiliary role in certain scenarios and game-states.

Match: Real Madrid 3-3 Manchester City, 9 April 2024

Players: Erling Haaland

Sources: Pep Guardiola Press-Conference on 12 April 2024 via BeanymanSports

Back to top Share on Twitter Email this post Copy link