The Dortmund forward will face the Etihad Stadium kit in the Champions League on Tuesday as speculation about his future intensions.
A towering, razor-sharp and relentless striker, Erling Haaland’s determination to be the best in the world seems to burst from every poisonous blow of the ball into the net.
In everything he does, Haaland cuts like a knife.
That kind of straightforward football isn’t exactly synonymous with the Manchester City brand, which is why many believe the 20-year-old Borussia Dortmund striker is better suited to Manchester United, Real Madrid or Paris Saint-Germain; teams that nurture individualism, nurture the power of superstars, and will massage egos as needed.
But there’s something particularly appealing about the prospect of Haaland under Pep Guardiola, a thumping interplay of styles that, like any similar pair in the sport, would reshape each individual for the betterment of both – or clash spectacularly.
To put it another way, Haaland at the Etihad Stadium could recreate the symbiosis that Sergio Aguero and Guardiola found together, or it could follow the story of Zlatan Ibrahimovic under Pep: a Ferrari that drives like a Fiat, as Zlatan said.
Before looking at how Haaland and City might change each other, it’s worth pointing out that the perceived differences are not as great as they are supposed to be.
Haaland is primarily a traditional number nine. Its main strengths include moving intelligently into space, sprinting explosively to outpace defenders, and finishing with frightening consistency.
That is closer to the Guardiola ideal than you might think. During Guardiolas’s time at the Etihad, the aim of his patient and carefully choreographed possession of the ball was to create relatively easy chances from the penalty area.
In City’s Centurion year, their archetypal goal was a low pass across the face and a tap on the back post, a theme still present in the way City looks forward, wants to square the ball or recycle the game. as often as necessary to provide an easier opportunity.
Gabriel Jesuss’s goal record speaks about this. All of the Brazilians’ 13 goals in 2020-21 were scored within eight meters of the goal, and 23 percent came from Jesus being played behind him with the kind of thru-ball that Haaland would gobble up.
Aside from Lionel Messis’ stake as a false nine at Barcelona, Guardiola has always used a good striker wherever possible: Aguero and Robert Lewandowski have excelled at the high number of penalty opportunities created, with surprisingly few of their goals taking up complex work of the center requirements. forward in deep positions.
Guardiola isn’t asking for a Roberto Firmino, because with so many midfielders, wingers and even fullbacks rushing into the number 10, there is already more than enough creativity to support the number nine.
Of course, a Guardiola forward still has to work effectively outside the penalty area. Jesus excels here as Aguero, after a difficult year of transition, eventually began to understand his instructions and began linking the piece more often from deeper positions. Haaland would then have to adjust his game. But he’s already working on this.
In recent months, Haaland has shown selflessness in last third place at Borussia Dortmund, and by falling into deeper positions, he has used that keenness of mind to deliver clever one-touch passes to his teammates.
Make no mistake, Haaland is still raw and still has enough work to be a Guardiola striker, but the potential is there. And that determination to be the best – the humility and hard work in training that Haaland is known for – suggests that a re-education under Guardiola would be the perfect next step in his career.
Just don’t expect Pep to discuss a possible deal ahead of City’s Champions League quarter-final against Dortmund, even if his agent Mino Raiola and father Alf-Inge have embarked on their European tour to find the best destination for their husband. .
Haaland may share Ibrahimovics’ swagger, but not his stubbornness: he is more like Cristiano Ronaldo in that respect, meaning he will listen intently to the world-class coaching that Guardiola would provide.
As for City, Haaland’s influence would kick them up a notch. After all, this is an attacker who is constantly on the move, scoring low percentage opportunities and creating them seemingly every minute with his intelligent runs.
Once in sync with Guardiolas ‘demands, Haaland would provide that counter-the-grain tactical advantage we often see in the unexpected bluntness of Kevin De Bruynes’ creativity.
De Bruyne is a good example of how Guardiola is often misrepresented as an idealist, when in reality, he adapts significantly to the qualities he possesses. The basic tactical principles remain the same, but Guardiola is very flexible and evolves dramatically to match the aesthetic he is given; The enormous success of De Bruynes and Agueros within Peps’ philosophy indicates an equally fruitful relationship with Haaland.
In short, Haaland’s intelligence and technical prowess means he would quite easily suck up Guardiolas methods of becoming a world-class link-up striker, while Guardiola and Man City would in turn be refreshed by a slight change of direction with a deadly finisher in its peak. Each party would change the other. Both would benefit from it.
One concern that city fans should have is whether they can afford Haaland. Guardiola recently described a move for the Norwegian as impossible due to the economic climate, and yet City appears to be better off financially than most other super clubs.
It is hard to believe that City Football Group will not increase its reported fee of 180 million (150 million / $ 210 million) as Haaland is sure to increase in value in the coming years.
And Haaland would be wise to choose City, a finishing school that would push him to radically improve the weaker parts of his game.
It doesn’t fit perfectly right now, but that’s cause for excitement, not alarm. Imagine what would come out of the laboratory that fuses Guardiola’s and Haaland’s DNA.
Whether Guardiola’s feud with Zlatan and Haaland’s agent, Raiola, gets in the way is another matter.
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