Erling Haaland might need to change for Kevin De Bruyne to get Man City wish – Joe Bray
The widespread assumption is that Erling Haaland will score for fun at Manchester City.
With 86 goals and 23 assists in 89 games for Borussia Dortmund, it’s a fair conclusion to draw, especially given City’s pre-existing free-scoring tendencies. It feels like a perfect fit, and it shouldn’t take too long for Haaland to adapt to Pep Guardiola’s style, or for City to fit their new striker into the system they have perfected.
Even Kevin De Bruyne has high hopes, when he said: “They’ve always been looking for a No.9, but I think it’ll be good to have that striker that maybe scores 20-25 goals a season. Maybe (his arrival might help me too). There have been years that I have had more assists (than this season). But my chance creation and other things have remained consistent.”
For De Bruyne to already be picturing the assists he can give Haaland, it says plenty of how the City squad approve of the transfer. However, De Bruyne may have to adapt his own game to suit Haaland if it’s assists he wants.
That is because City play a more considered, possession-based build-up than Dortmund’s more counter-attacking style. Haaland got plenty of goals from Dortmund drawing a defence out before he’d make a run and make them pay, whereas opposition teams are less likely to take that risk against City.
Instead, Haaland’s movement in the penalty box will be relied upon to bypass a low block — and his recent goal for Norway is evidence that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. De Bruyne’s delivery can be key to helping Haaland adapt to that new role, with the Belgian himself changing his game from recent seasons now he’s got a permanent frontman to aim for.
A brief look at City’s crossing statistics from last season in the league shows they put in an average of 23 crosses per game, scoring 0.5 goals per game from those balls. When set pieces are considered, City scored 0.6 goals per game from those situations, in part due to their improvements under coach Carlos Vicens from set plays.
De Bruyne himself averages 0.1 assist per game from crosses, and 0.1 assists from corners per game. Only four players in the division put in more corners than De Bruyne’s 96.
As for Haaland, his record for club and country in 2021/22 showed he scored 0.1 goals from set pieces from 0.5 shots from set pieces per game. He averaged 0.1 headed goals per game from 0.6 headed shots per game, with City’s team average standing at 0.4 headed goals.
City’s statistics obviously come from a whole squad, while Haaland’s numbers are from just one player. If he can add his lower shots and goals per game from such situations to City’s total, then the arrangement will suit both parties. But he could also look at these numbers and see an area he might have to improve.
In terms of where Haaland’s goals come from, just 0.1 goals per game came from inside the six yard box, with City’s team average much higher at 0.7. Similarly, Haaland’s average in the penalty area is 0.8 goals per game, and City recorded an impressive 1.4 goals from inside the 18-yard box.
If Haaland will need little encouragement to get on the end of De Bruyne’s famous through-balls, then he may have to work with De Bruyne and City’s other creators to improve his output from crosses and set pieces.
If anyone can manage it, though, it’s players of Haaland and De Bruyne’s calibre. And when they do, just imagine how many goals and assists they could rack up.