Talking Tactics: Haaland the right Man for City’s striker conundrum
Erling Haaland’s impending arrival at Manchester City has the rest of the Premier League fearing the prospect of facing the goal machine next season.
The Norwegian is the hottest talent for his age in world football and Etihad chiefs will be delighted with the fact they have managed to secure his services for £51million due to his release clause.
We explore how the Citizens could play with Haaland, 21, spearheading their forward line.
City’s striker conundrum
Gabriel Jesus has been the only recognised striker in the City squad following their failed attempt to sign Harry Kane from Tottenham last summer.
The Brazilian has managed to chip in with 13 goals and 11 assists in all competitions despite not always being a regular feature in the starting XI.
But there have been questions surrounding his fit in the team as Guardiola has been calling out for another striker for the last year.
Despite sitting top of the table in March, he said: "I think the club needs a striker, definitely. You say we play fantastically well without a striker because we are winning.
"In the Premier League you have to play with a striker. We try, but sometimes it's not possible."
His wish has been granted and there appear to be few better options in world football considering Haaland’s staggering numbers at this stage of his career.
The marksman bagged 86 goals in 89 games for Borussia Dortmund, managing to find the back of the net 29 times in 30 appearances this season despite injury setbacks.
And with 22-year-old Argentine Julian Alvarez joining from River Plate, Jesus looks set to be on the move this summer as Arsenal and Tottenham eye swoops.
End of the false nine?
Pep Guardiola has frequently used a false nine in his system at City and did the same during his time at Barcelona when deploying Lionel Messi in that role.
The Spaniard used Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez to lead the line as he searched for the right fit this season.
All of the players mentioned are abundant in technical ability, while 21-year-old Foden has excelled with his superb balance, quick feet and awareness.
It has been suggested that Haaland's arrival could see City switch up how they play but he has shown at Dortmund that he could be a better fit than many are anticipating.
Fitting the system
Foden has netted 14 times and set up 11 goals in all competitions this season with one of his best performances coming as a false nine against bitter rivals Manchester United.
City’s second came from a brilliant flick over the defender and shot by the England whizkid which ultimately resulted in a De Bruyne finish.
The touch map (above) highlights the influence the playmaker had across the pitch, dropping deep beyond the halfway line and into central areas, playing his role to perfection.
When deployed out wide, Foden tends to have more touches on the ball and likes to occupy both flanks but he has been able to adapt when necessary.
Haaland produced his finest display of the season on the opening day of the campaign when he had a hand in all five goals in a 5-2 rout of Eintracht Frankfurt — netting a brace and claiming a hat-trick of assists.
His touch map from that clash (above) demonstrates how effective he can be across all areas of the pitch and against a side that have recently been crowned Europa League champions.
Jesus' heat map (above) shows that he likes to drift out wide and spend less time in the box
With the number of wingers City have to occupy these zones and the quality they possess, it makes sense why Guardiola wanted Kane and ultimately signed Haaland.
The heat map (below) illustrates Haaland’s high activity in the box as a recognised centre forward, as well as his tendency to occupy deeper central zones — ideal for Guardiola's City who are masters at dominating these areas.
Haaland’s ability to hassle defenders and cause havoc will certainly provide Guardiola with something different — and is perhaps the answer to City's Champions League woes.
To the surprise of many when considering Haaland’s physical nature and height at 6ft 4in, he has only scored seven headers in his Dortmund career.
This will not be a cause for concern for Guardiola as his outfit rarely lump balls into the box and whip in crosses from out wide — Grealish, Mahrez and Sterling are all inverted wingers that integrate well with his system.
The talisman has provided eight league assists this season, the second most of any of the Bundesliga’s top seven goal scorers.
His ability to both create opportunities, as well as clinically finish them, should leave City fans excited for the times ahead and rivals quaking in their boots.