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Analysing Erling Haaland’s goalscoring exploits for Borussia Dortmund


Erling Haaland’s first full season in the Bundesliga saw the Norwegian striker score 27 goals in only 28 games for Borussia Dortmund, with the freshly minted 21-year-old setting yet more records for his club, age group and the German top flight.

bundesliga.com delves into the numbers behind Haaland’s goals and how he’s scored them…

Goalscoring machine

The Norwegian’s 27 goals would’ve seen him finish as the top scorer in 38 out of 58 seasons in the Bundesliga, but such was the brilliance of Robert Lewandowski and also Andre Silva, Haaland only finished third in the 2020/21 standings.

You couldn’t fault him for how he put away the chances he was presented with, though. Those 27 goals came from only 94 shots over 28 games, which works out at a ball hitting the back of the net every 3.5 attempts. By comparison, Lewandowski converted every 3.4.

BVB supporters quickly got used to Haaland’s scoring exploits when he became the first player in the club’s history to score on his debut in the Bundesliga, DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League, and realised they had little need to worry whenever he found himself with obvious goalscoring opportunities, as he finished 19 of his 33 clear-cut chances. That equates to 58 per cent and was slightly behind the record-setting Lewandowski (66 per cent).

Watch: All of Haaland’s 40 Bundesliga goals

The remarkable thing about Haaland in 2020/21, though, was that one goal almost always brought two. Although he got 27 in total, he was actually only on the scoresheet in 14 games. That’s because he bagged a brace or better 11 times, which is a feat only Lewandowski (in 2016/17) and the legendary Gerd Müller (12 times in 1971/72) had previously achieved in a Bundesliga season.

Ten of those were two-goal hauls, including in each of the last six league games where he scored. On top of that there was a devastating four-goal salvo in the second half of Dortmund’s 5-2 win away at Hertha Berlin on Matchday 8. That made him the youngest player to ever score four times in a Bundesliga match.

Looking at his 43-game Bundesliga career as a whole, Haaland is going at almost a goal a game with 40 strikes in total. The only player who’s ever had more from their first 43 appearances was the great Uwe Seeler with 41.

Having only turned 21 on 21 July, he’s the highest-scoring U21 player in Bundesliga history, surpassing teammate Jadon Sancho’s record of 36, and the youngest to reach goals 31 through 40.

On top of that, Haaland in fact boasts the best minutes-per-goal ratio of any player to ever score at least 25 times in the Bundesliga, netting on average every 87 minutes. Again, by comparison, Lewandowski strikes every 102 minutes.

The arrival of Haaland (r.) in the Bundesliga looks to have pushed Lewandowski (l.) to step up his game even more. - ANDREAS GEBERT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

How Haaland scores

That clinical nature is again clear to see in xGoals. Based on the positions he found himself in over the past season, the Norwegian was only expected to score 21.8 goals. Having actually got 27, he’s 5.2 up on his xG, which is the fourth-highest positive differential in the league after Andrej Kramaric (+5.3), Sasa Kalajdzic (+6.7) and Lewandowski (+12.3).

Haaland was clocked at a blistering 22.39 mph (36.04 km/h) on Matchday 28 away at VfB Stuttgart, making him the second-fastest player in the division in 2020/21, behind Mainz’s Jerry St. Juste. That speed was put to good use throughout the season as Haaland proved he is the all-round striker. His four goals from counter-attacks was only trumped by Hoffenheim’s Kramaric (six), but it’s as a fox in the box where he showed he was most lethal.

All but one of his 27 goals came inside the penalty area, with eight of those being finished inside the six-yard box. The exception was his opening goal in the 4-2 loss in der Klassiker away at Bayern Munich.

The areas on the pitch where Haaland has taken the shots for his 27 goals in 2020/21. - DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga GmbH

Everything else was in the box, where he’s become both the über-predator and merciless finisher. His tally inside the six-yard box shows how he frequently finds himself in those positions to put away anything that drops in front of goal. But it’s his six to the left, outside the width of the posts, that stands out.

For example, Lewandowski got 37 of his record 41 goals in 2020/21 when shooting from between the posts. Haaland has shown he’s fond of actually shifting the ball outside the width of the goal before pulling the trigger.

And as the second graphic shows, he tends to like going low, beyond the goalkeeper’s reach, either at his near post or going across to the far one. That move is often seen when he’s allowed to drive into the box himself. There's a tendency among other goalscorers to stay central and keep both sides open for the shot, or try to come up the ‘wrong’ side of the pitch (i.e. right-footer down the left or left-footer down the right) so they have the option to open up their body for the shot.

The left-footed Haaland, on the other hand, likes making that diagonal run to the left of centre, like he did on Matchday 1 against Borussia Mönchengladbach and again in his four-goal haul away at Hertha – just to name a couple. The runs were almost identical, but the finishes different. The former saw him go for the high finish over Yann Sommer, while the latter was the powerful drive across Alexander Schwolow, low into the far corner.

Even with an angle that is closing and looks to limit the left-footer, he still manages to keep all options open and – invariably – find the back of the net with that left peg, which has been used for 33 of his 40 Bundesliga goals. The right has produced five strikes, as well as two headers.

Haaland peppered the opposition goal throughout 2020/21, but he had a preference for low finishes. - DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga GmbH

When Haaland scores

That blistering pace becomes even more of an issue for defence when you take into account his fitness. That is most clearly seen in his distribution of goals throughout games. Almost two thirds of his 57 BVB goals have come in the second halves of his 59 competitive appearances (35, plus one in extra-time). In the Bundesliga it’s 26 out of 40, including 16 from 27 this past season.

Divide the games up further and the Leeds-born striker shows that he’s brilliantly adept at taking advantage of tiring opposition legs.

His attention-grabbing brace in the first nine minutes away at Bayern on Matchday 24 was the first time he’d actually scored in the first quarter of an hour of a game with Dortmund. He’s since done so three more times up to the end of the campaign, but the first 15 minutes still remains his least productive period in Black and Yellow.

Watch: Haaland’s nine-minute brace in Munich

In increasing order, his breakdown is: seven goals in 31-45, eight in 46-60, nine in 16-30, 10 in 61-75 and then 14 in 76-90 (plus three in second-half stoppage time and one in extra-time).

Strikers are often judged on their ability to decide games late on, and Haaland showed on a couple of key occasions that he remains Dortmund’s man until the very end. Although not game-winning goals, his late strikes against Hoffenheim and Cologne earned BVB ultimately crucial points in 2-2 draws.

Given that the DFB Cup winners – with Haaland again scoring a brace in the 4-1 final win over RB Leipzig – eventually finished four points clear of Eintracht Frankfurt in fifth, those additional two points proved the difference between a relaxed final matchday and a nervy three-way tussle also involving Wolfsburg.

Charlie Mason