A tactical look at how Erling Haaland has added to Borussia Dortmund’s attack


Since arriving in the January transfer window, Erling Haaland's impact has been nothing short of remarkable for Borussia Dortmund.

Up to nine goals in his six Bundesliga appearances after his strike in Dortmund’s 2-0 win over Werder Bremen on Matchday 23 and averaging a goal every 57 minutes of league play, Haaland has taken the Bundesliga by storm.

The fact he also bagged a marvellous brace in the 2-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League has further amplified the young Norwegian’s brilliance for his new team.

Wanting to bolster their forward ranks in January, Dortmund's acquisition of Haaland has been a master stroke, the 19-year-old bringing the firepower they so dearly desired.

“He’s the type of striker we really needed," BVB teammate Axel Witsel explained to bundesliga.com. "We're very happy to have him. Haaland doesn't need many chances to score. He's a killer. I hope he's going to score again next week and continue to score a lot of goals for us."

Despite his tender years, Haaland has slotted straight into coach Lucien Favre's plans, immediately transferred his scintillating Red Bull Salzburg form from the first half of the season over to his new club. Already hitting the 40-goal mark this campaign, there's no sign of Haaland slowing down either, for he's a player that can hurt his adversaries in so many ways.


Haaland's movement is a great place to begin, for he combines athleticism and intelligence in order to put himself in ideal locations to find the back of the net or breathe life into attacks.

Blessed with searing pace and always on the lookout to exploit openings in the opposition's defence, his runs in behind have been a huge weapon. Quick to recognise when an opponent is preoccupied or caught ball watching, plus when a gap opens up between markers, Haaland pounces to offer a great option for his teammates.

Timing, angling and directing his surges so he can remain onside and avoid his tracker, once in full flight, there's no stopping Haaland due to his explosive acceleration and pace. It is also important to note how he will often time his runs so he can enjoy separation from his man, allowing him to then burst ahead unimpeded.

Classy depth run to break in behind

- 2019 DFL

Superbly timed and angled run in behind

- 2019 DFL

Sharp movement in behind as he times his run superbly

- 2019 DFL

Precise run in behind while remaining onside

- 2019 DFL

Another super run between defenders to burst into the box

- 2019 DFL

Moreover, the way he exploits the blindside of foes, uses cunning zigzags, sharp double movements and clever stop-go moves only enhances makes him more elusive and helps him lose his marker. This has been influential when he is inside the box, allowing him to get goal-side, attack the back post or peel off his man to occupy dangerous areas for cutbacks.

Wicked zigzag run to get goalside before scoring

- 2019 DFL

Outfoxing his man with his movement to attack the pass to score

- 2019 DFL

Fantastic in-to-out run before scoring

- 2019 DFL

Instinctive and a quick reader of the play, Haaland also impresses with how he picks up on the trajectory of a pass to tailor his runs and adjusts his body shape when finishing. How he strategically pins and draws markers away from space for others to use and has dovetailed so cohesively with the likes of Jadon Sancho, Achraf Hakimi and Thorgan Hazard.

Coming deep which draws three markers to create space in behind for Hakimi

- 2019 DFL

Helping form a 3v2 when dropping deep

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Brilliant lay off into his teammate after creating space for them

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"I've been here for one month, but when my teammates are all so good, it makes it easy to sometimes create chances and to play with them,” Haaland told bundesliga.com. “The first second I played with Jadon [Sancho], Marco [Reus], Thorgan [Hazard], you know these guys, it just clicked, and that's how it is with world-class players."

Haaland can also score in a variety of ways, whether it is a devastating long-range effort, well-placed finish, composed efforts when one-on-one with the goal keeper, quality headers, and deft dinks, his eye for goal and execution is first rate.

Sublime finish from a tight angle after rounding the keeper

- 2019 DFL

Clinical, composed finish despite being under heavy pressure

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Placing his finish coolly to beat the keeper

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Furthermore, the way he reacts so quickly to rebounds of the woodword or goalkeeper usually enables him to get loose balls first before applying a finish.

Reacting rapidly to finish home the rebound

- 2019 DFL

The fact Haaland is so good at maximising his opportunities and stays extremely composed under pressure, means he doesn't need many touches to make an impact, so if he is having a difficult game, all it takes is a moment of magic for him to help his team.

Aerial play

Haaland stands at 6’4”, and this benefits his team in by making him a wonderful option for crosses and set pieces, but is also helps when BVB can't beat the opposition’s press. Boasting short twitch fibres and an explosive leap to go with his imposing frame, Haaland is an outlet for his team, winning second balls or flicking long passes onto runners in behind.

When he drops deep to link play, he acts as a good reference point in these situations too, using his strength to protect the ball while holding off his opponent. While Haaland’s touch could yet improve, his ball control is already at a level where he can combine slickly with teammates by playing some neat layoffs and flicks when facing the ball.

Checking towards the ball cleanly as he catches out his man

- 2019 DFL

Haaland finding space between the lines

- 2019 DFL

There have also been many examples where Haaland has struck some excellent through balls, crosses - on both feet despite being nominally left-footed - and switched play with ease, with this creativity further amplifying the threat he poses.

Quality through ball in behind

- 2019 DFL

Incisive through ball to tee up Sancho

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Hard to mark due to size, speed, strength and variable touch, he compounds issues for defenders with his dribbling. Able to turn them in an instant, drive past them with his wicked turn of pace or gain an edge using some incisive feints or changes of direction, opponents certainly have their work cut out containing Haaland. In addition, his ability to remain balanced and upright when riding challenges further compounds issues for opponents.

By the numbers for the 2019/2020 campaign, his averages of 6.27 touches inside the box per game, 4.14 shots, 2.01 dribbles, 1.79 progressive runs and 0.90 passes to a shot also illustrate his undeniable quality.

Imposing, intelligent and unstoppable when he gets going, it's little wonder everyone is talking about the multifaceted Haaland, who so expertly combines power and finesse.

A force to be reckoned with and still only a teenager, expect his upward trajectory to continue at an unstoppable rate, as he keeps on improving and developing his game - a terrifying prosopect for Bundesliga defences and beyond.

Edward Stratmann