Erling Haaland Watch: The Star's Failure to Score Only Reveals Unseen Strings to His Bow in Selfless Display

May 23, 2020, 5:25 PM GMT+1
Erling Haaland, Maximilian Arnold
VfL Wolfsburg v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga | Pool/Getty Images
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A few years ago, footballers discovered the best way to gain transfer attention was to dye their hair bleach blonde, so scouts couldn't miss them on the pitch. This tactic famously landed Riyad Mahrez his big-money move to Manchester City, and without it, he may still be gliding up and down the Leicester City flank today. Possibly.

Well, unfortunately for Erling Haaland, he already possesses bright, white-blonde locks, meaning that in a team with the similarly-haired Julian Brandt, he has to find other means to impress. Luckily, the kid is insanely good at scoring goals. And on top of that, the entire planet is currently glued to the Bundesliga, so for the time being, Haaland is football's most watched man.

Erling Haaland
Borussia Dortmund v FC Schalke 04 - Bundesliga | Pool/Getty Images

In fact, this run of unrivalled Bundesliga action could prove to be the most important of Haaland's career, as representatives from every club now have no excuse but to evaluate the true quality of this blossoming superstar.

And although he failed to get on the scoresheet for Borussia Dortmund against Wolfsburg on Saturday, he demonstrated all of the other qualities which make him one of Europe's biggest hitters.

Haaland stepped up to the plate before a ball was even kicked, visibly geeing up and rallying his teammates prior to the first whistle, clapping and dishing out pats on the back to those around him.

It was a startling display of maturity and responsibility for a teenager still making his name in a team of superstars. But most importantly, his words of encouragement were clearly welcomed by those more experienced around him.

Maturity beyond his years.

Jadon Sancho, Erling Haaland
VfL Wolfsburg v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga | Pool/Getty Images

The biggest curiosity though, is fathoming what kind of striker the Borussia Dortmund star truly is. Admittedly, Haaland has only been in the public eye for a relatively short period of time, and very few of us will have watched him regularly until his move to Germany in January.

Yet it remains impossible to pigeon-hole him as a certain type of forward, nor have we found a fellow goalscorer - past or present - to whom we can accurately compare him on raw ability and style of play. That's not to say that we don't know what the teenager can do - it merely means that a player has rarely demonstrated such a rounded and polished skillset as the Norwegian star.

If you tag the striker as a penalty-box forward, or a clinical fox in the box, then you're far from seeing the full picture. Ok, he does boast the qualities of those particular roles, but he is so much more than that.

And we saw it time and time again on Saturday.

After the recent, ruthless destruction of Schalke, many were hoping for more of the same from Dortmund and Haaland against Wolfsburg. Unfortunately, their hosts were in much better shape than last week's victims, and it would be no stroll in the park for Lucien Favre's men.

Wolfsburg made life difficult for Dortmund from the off, hustling and harrying their opponents, but the visitors kept their cool, and Haaland was instrumental in avoiding the well-organised press.

The striker's link-up play and ability to drop deep in search of the ball, combined with the dynamic movement from Brandt and Thorgan Hazard, meant the Norwegian international could play intricate little triangles and cute balls behind the defence at will.

This altruistic trait strays from the stereotype of a tunnel-visioned goalscorer, and it was these dainty touches which made Dortmund tick in the final third.

He even showed real selfishness in air-kicking the ball to allow Raphael Guerreiro to open the scoring.

Ok, so maybe he didn't mean it, but his movement to get in position for the shot was the key to unlocking the defence, and his presence undoubtedly drew attention away from the onrushing Portuguese full-back. Let's take the positives, shall we?

In reality, today wasn't quite Haaland's day when it came to goalscoring opportunities. In fact, it will go down as one of his quietest and most disappointing performances thus far. The mis-hit effort in the first half was the only clear-cut chance that was carved out for the Dortmund star during the match, and he rarely looked like threatening the goalkeeper at all.

But his work rate and involvement never waned.

And when Dortmund backs were against the wall, their brutish forward was on hand to ease the pressure on his tiring teammates, holding up the ball and wasting precious seconds that Wolfsburg craved to find an equaliser.

Dortmund were made to work hard for their win, and Haaland became very isolated as the game wore on, as Wolfsburg began to turn the screw. But the visitors did add a second to seal three points, and once again, the forward's presence alone was enough to create space and draw players away from the action, allowing his capable teammates to do the rest.

It was a huge three points for Der BVB, and with their potential title-decider against Bayern approaching in midweek, Favre and Co will be chuffed with their resolute display.

As for Haaland, he won't make headlines with every performance, but he showed on Saturday that when the going gets tough, he's ready to roll up his sleeves and be counted. A different performance, but far from a bad one.

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