Erling Haaland will not have the opportunity to show his talent at this summer’s European Championship due to Norway’s failure to qualify. But even as the tournament kicks off, his name will continue to make the headlines.
The future of the Borussia Dortmund striker is the subject of intense speculation. His agent, Mino Raiola, met Barcelona and Real Madrid for talks in April, while Haaland has also attracted interest from Manchester City and Manchester United.
It was European champions Chelsea, however, who have become the most serious contenders for the £ 150million-valued goal machine Thomas Tuchel has reportedly identified Haaland as the man to solve the long-standing problems of the team at the top of the field.
The deal won’t be easy to close, but here we take a look at the scoring issues that have sparked Chelsea’s interest and look at ways Haaland could take them to another level.
Chelsea’s finishing problem
Chelsea’s finishing problem predates Tuchel’s appointment. It was evident throughout Frank Lampard’s tenure and it was a problem for Maurizio Sarri and even Antonio Conte before him.
Eden Hazard was prolific and Tammy Abraham impressed in places, but the club haven’t had a real elite presence in the center hitter role since Diego Costa left in 2017.
Timo Werner can still prove himself in this regard. He certainly has the pedigree of having scored 95 times in 159 appearances for his former club RB Leipzig.
But if Tuchel is to build on Chelsea’s Champions League success, he knows it would be a huge risk to place his hopes on a player who has only scored six Premier League goals in his debut season in England. .
Werner’s struggles in front of goal have become a recurring theme in Chelsea’s campaign. Even in their Champions League final triumph over Manchester City, he fended off several golden chances.
The German is more to blame than most when it comes to dissecting Chelsea’s lavishness last season – his big chance conversion rate was the third lowest among players who have scored six or more goals in the Premier League – but the problem is collective.
The more clinical teams are able to consistently surpass their expected goals, but Chelsea have scored five less than them. should have, depending on the quality of the opportunities created. Only four teams – Burnley, Brighton, Sheffield United and Fulham – were more wasteful.
Chelsea’s shot conversion rate was just as low. They converted just 14.4% of their effort on goal, according to Opta, placing them 14th among Premier League clubs, sandwiched between Southampton and relegated West Brom.
Creativity was not an issue – Chelsea placed in the Premier League’s top four for chances created, big chances created and shots on goal – but they couldn’t find the finish to match, much to the frustration of Tuchel and Lampard before him.
Haaland’s murderous touch
Haaland would surely change all that.
The forward has become one of Europe’s most prolific goalscorers since his rise to Red Bull Salzburg.
After scoring 29 goals in 27 appearances during his time with the Austrian side, he has found the net at a similar pace since joining Borussia Dortmund in January last year.
In total, the Norwegian has scored 57 goals in 59 appearances for Dortmund, including a brace in their German Cup triumph over RB Leipzig at the end of last season.
Few players are more clinical in front of goal and Haaland has demonstrated this ruthlessness consistently at Champions League level since making his competitive debut with Red Bull Salzburg at the start of the 2019/20 campaign.
His tally of 20 Champions League goals over the past two seasons puts him on par with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and just behind Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski.
In terms of efficiency, however, Haaland is unmatched.
His average of one goal every 62.9 minutes is the best of any player for scoring at least seven goals in the competition over the past two seasons, while no one even comes close to his conversion rate. shots 42.6 percent, with Alvaro Morata next in the lead on 30 percent.
Such an incredibly high conversion rate will be difficult – perhaps even impossible – to sustain over a longer period of time, but Haaland’s numbers are just as impressive in league games in the last season and a half since his move to Dortmund.
In that span only three players – Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi – have scored more goals in one of Europe’s major leagues – but Haaland’s 31.5% conversion rate wins again out of the three.
In fact, of those who have attempted at least 50 shots during this period, the only Bundesliga, Premier League, La Liga, Serie A or Ligue 1 player with a higher conversion rate is Crotone striker Simy, 29, who scored 20 times on 63 shots last season.
Haaland’s underlying numbers, both domestically and in European competition, help explain why he is considered a pending superstar. The prospect of him feeding off Mason Mount, Hakim Ziyech and the others is tantalizing for Chelsea.
Strength, speed and more
Haaland’s age obviously adds to his appeal – he was only 20 at the start of last season – but it’s his completeness, in addition to his finishing ability, that makes him so particularly dangerous.
His 6-foot-4 frame and formidable physique make him an ideal target. He also has the technical cunning of holding the ball and getting others to play, and then there’s his scary pace.
Manchester City found out in their Champions League quarter-final against Dortmund last season, with John Stones and Ruben Dias struggling to contain him at the Etihad Stadium and Pep Guardiola describing him as a “b ***** d “to play against. .
As Guardiola and his players have witnessed firsthand, Haaland’s varying strengths mean he can be dangerous in any scenario – from counterattacks to set pieces. However, it is in the opposing penalty area, ball at the feet, that it comes to life.
Thirty-nine of his 40 Bundesliga goals came from inside the box while 37 of them came from open play. He is an expert at timing his runs and appearing in scoring positions. He then has the composure to apply the right finish.
He specializes in finding corners with his left foot on the left side of the box, but he’s also comfortable on his right foot and tends to vary his runs to let defenders guess.
Chelsea are already dangerous on set pieces – only four Premier League teams scored more goals in dead ball situations last season – but Haaland’s threat from open play is precisely what they are missing: The Blues have each other. ranked ninth for open play goals in 2020/21.
This is one of the few areas where this Chelsea side continue to fall short. There has been a remarkable defensive improvement under Tuchel. He also exploited their quality in midfield and in wide positions with excellent effect. But a key ingredient is still missing. Add a goalscorer of Haaland’s stature and it would become difficult for anyone to stop them.