Coaches and former players for Jutarnji list try to answer the question of how to play against Haaland
The word “assassin” carries a host of negative connotations, however, when used in the context of his name, the usage is quite justified. While the eyes of the football world were on the Manchester derby that Sunday afternoon, the spectacle practically turned into a “one-man show”. Lisandro Martínez, Victor Lindelöf, Raphaël Varane and the rest of the Red Devils’ defensive line-up will probably be waking up in the middle of the night covered in sweat for days to come. Who knows how many more nights he will dream of a robust blond Scandinavian named Erling Haaland, who officially announced his candidacy for the current best soccer player in the world on Sunday. While he was “Batman” with three goals and two assists, Phil Foden was “Robin” with also three balls sent into the net.
The record for the number of goals in one season of the Premier League is shared by Alan Shearer and Andy Cole, with 34 goals in a season, it was in the 90s of the last century, and both of them set this record in seasons in which the Premier League counted 22 clubs, so four more rounds were played that way than now. The wonderful Norwegian scored 14 goals in the first eight rounds. The hat-trick against United was Haaland’s third in a row at home in the Premier League, having previously scored three against Palace and Forest. Watching his feats, even the most expert football connoisseur will get the impression that this man is unstoppable. In order to try to find out the secret recipe and whether it is even possible to put an end to the “baby-faced killer” from Etihad, we dialed the numbers of former Croatian football players and current coaches.
“They create opportunities for him”
- Ha, ha. Even the best coaches in the world have this headache, so far no one has found the magic formula. He has incredible speed and energy. Only in Cristiano I saw such a desire to score. The fascinating thing about Haaland is that he is practically more physically dominant than all his rivals. He is on his way to the title of the best in the world, he is still young, we should not forget Lewandowski, Benzema and others – Nikola Jurčević told us.
Molde, Red Bull Salzburg and Borussia Dortmund were his stops before coming to Manchester City, and it seems that the changes in the environment do not leave too much of a mark on him.
- One of the ways is a strong collective defense, because one on one it is impossible to stop him, few defensive players can cope with him. It’s not just him, it depends a lot on City’s play, and so far they look unstoppable. As he started, he should become the best player in the world, he has all the predispositions for that, and in all leagues he was the best player – commented Goran Tomić.
Most agree that Haaland is on his way to the title of the best soccer player in the world, and for some his status is already unquestionable.
- It is impossible to stop him, everything looks simple when he does it. He is already the best player in the world, of course there is also Mbappé, but it is very difficult to keep strikers like Haaland. He is tall, but moves very well and has excellent timing. Of course, it also depends on his teammates, this way of playing suits him, he needs a team that creates a lot of opportunities and cultivates offensive football – Dario Šimić told us.
Today he is the best in the world
Pep Guardiola has already collaborated with a striker of similar caliber once, and this collaboration is one of those that marked his career. Zlatan Ibrahimović and the Catalan coach did not find a common language in Barcelona, and Haaland reminds some with his game of the best days of the Swedish striker, but Guardiola is now fully relying on that type of striker.
- He is physically powerful, he is good with his back to the goal, he enters the space with equal quality, but he is also good at jumping. In City, he can only profit, considering the creativity of the players around him, it seems that he enters the game a little less, and Guardiola will not repeat the “Ibrahimović case” this time – says Dragan Skočić.
When asked how dependent he is on his teammates, some believe that the success of his teammates actually depends on him.
- He is pulling City, maybe it is a little too early to say that he is the best player in the world, but at the moment it is impossible to stop him. United also came on Sunday with the intention of putting an end to him, and you can see how it ended – said Zoran Zekić.
Perhaps the most frightening fact, according to his rivals, is that he only celebrated his 22nd birthday in July. And while Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo (one slower, the other faster) draw the curtain over their careers in which they have focused the brightest lights of the football stage on themselves for the last 15 years or so, the balance of power is beginning to change. As things stand now, Haaland has secured one pole of the new power relations.
The only obstacle in his way can be injuries
While no one was able to find a recipe for restraining the robust attacker, one of our interlocutors said that the Norwegian can only stop himself, that is, only a possible injury can slow him down and stand in his way.
- It’s incredible what kind of explosiveness he has, but it’s hard to maintain such musculature, he occasionally had problems with injuries because of it, that’s maybe his only small flaw, but if that passes him by, he’s on the right path – concluded Jurčević.
It was Guardiola who pointed out before the clash with United that Haaland is now completely healthy, after struggling with injuries.
- He struggled a lot with an injury last season in Dortmund. He arrived with some minor problems, he had a minor operation during the summer. Thanks to his work habits, but also to our doctors, he can now play regularly, which he couldn’t do last season – said Guardiola.
Haaland was absent from the field from mid-January to mid-March this year due to a muscle injury.