Erling Haaland’s secret weapon? Be like an owl. Really.

If you were asked to compare Erling Haaland to an animal, which animal would you choose?

A lion? Maybe a shark?

It would certainly be some kind of powerful predator, wouldn’t it?

But what about an owl? Constantly looking around, ready to pounce; a kind of heightened awareness that could help explain why Haaland has been so lethal to manchester city this season.

Their prepare against Leeds It means that he reached 20 Premier league goals faster than any other player: It took him 14 games, seven fewer than previous record holder Kevin Phillips to sunderlands in 1999-2000 (21 games).

In the next match, at the home of EvertonHaaland scored the first goal, meaning he has scored in 12 of his 15 Premier League appearances.

Much has been said about his technique, physique and velocitybut let’s take a look at his conscience.

“What impressed me is that I knew he was a guy for big transitions, and in 30 or 40 meters he was unstoppable,” Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola said of Haaland in October.

“But I didn’t know how well it moves in small spaces in the area. In the end he has scored many goals because he moves very well.

“He is very intuitive, and above all he makes movements that I really like; as a striker, he moves away from the action to be close to the ball afterwards”.

One of the reasons the 22-year-old is so able to see what’s happening on the pitch and act accordingly is that he’s constantly scanning, looking around during the game.

Some coaches call it a “shoulder check,” others “side mirrors.” Scholars call it “visual exploratory activity.” Regardless of the terminology, the basic principle is that players can make more informed decisions by being more aware of what is going on around them.

The statistics suggest that Haaland is an informed decision-maker. Across Europe’s top five leagues this season, he has the most goals (21) and the most goals without penalties (18), but he also ranks within the top five per cent of Premier League forwards by rate. in conversion (31 percent) and the top 12 percent in shot accuracy (52.5 percent), with average shot quality (0.19 xG per shot).

His shot map shows groups of shots (red circles) in the six-yard box and a bit near the penalty spot. The accuracy is unbelievable, and despite the number of shots he’s taken from left half space, all but one of the Norwegian’s shots have come from inside the six-yard box.

The number of big circles tells us that Haaland is frequently in high-quality shooting positions. Including penalties, his 26 great chances, defined by Opta as “a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score, usually in a one-on-one scenario or from very close range when the ball has a clear path to goal ”. They are the most in the Premier League. Haaland has hit the target with 20 of them and has scored with 16.

These shots are frequently into space, close to goal, and often to kick-in shots, rather than crashing headers over defenders. Being in positions like that repeatedly requires the ability to see and react quickly to all the things happening on the field around you.

To understand how he does it, let’s look at his in-box and out-of-box scan separately.

Scan inside the box

His eight Premier League goals from 12 shots inside the box are the most by any player. What is worth noting is how often he scores from an unmarked position, particularly when he compares himself to other forwards. He finds the space, and he is able to do it because he sees the space.

A team of researchers analyzed the Premier League 2017-18 and found that forwards scan less from any position. The authors said this may be due to pressure from defenders discouraging forwards from looking away from the ball. It can also be due to the proximity of opponents, as forwards are likely to see them in their peripheral vision anyway. Another plausible explanation is that the players focus on the ball closer to the goal.

Haaland’s most recent goal, against Everton, is a perfect case study. kevin debruyne dissects the midfield with a pass to Jack Grealishwhich triggers a run by Haaland.

Haaland flees from Ben Godfreyhaving positioned himself on the defender’s toes to hold down the defensive line, he then runs into the center of defense for a through ball.

Responding to Haaland’s threat, left-back Vitalii Mykolenko closes in on him, tightening the defense and leaving Riad Mahrez in significant space to receive the ball from Grealish (blue arrow).

As Mahrez faces Mykolenko, the five defenders (pink circles) between Haaland and the ball watch the ball. Haaland is not. Instead, he is checking her right shoulder…

Mahrez drives on the outside and gets past Mykolenko. Four defenders plus the goalkeeper jordan pickford are in the small area, with Conor Coady backed up to the finish line. Haaland moves away from the goal to finish off a touch from Mahrez, indicated by the golden arrow.

Another example of his exploration is Haaland’s opening goal at home to Crystal Palace in August.

With the ball deflected to the right, he does a signature double move, initially running towards the center of defence, in this case. Joel Ward — force the defender into his own goal and throw him off balance, before running off to the sides. Haaland’s run near the post is unsuccessful because De Bruyne crosses the line…

… but when the ball falls to Phil Foden at the far post, the nearest six crystal Palace all defenders are looking at the ball. Once again, Haaland is not. Instead, he looks to the left to see the positioning of jeffrey schlupp.

how he sees joachim andersen taking a step forward to Ilkay Gundogan, Haaland knows he has a clear run to the center because Schlupp is on the wrong end, while Andersen can’t even see it. Without moving, Haaland has allowed space to open up around him.

In the example above, Haaland looks away from the ball as he walks away from it, but is fully focused on it when Foden is crossing, then quickly responds to what he just saw.

“Many players have great peripheral vision, but are very slow to respond,” Dr. Sherylle Calder said the athletic in April.

“So peripheral vision has a role, but it needs information from the scan around it. I call that peripheral awareness: it’s the ability to respond to your periphery.”

Scan out of the box

Haaland’s second goal against manchester united in October it’s a De Bruyne trademark cross (golden arrow) and Haaland finish.

But let’s analyze the detail. The four holds below are from a two-second sequence as De Bruyne receives the ball and prepares to cross.

Haaland initially positions himself in Rafael Varanebut on four different occasions he looks at the ball before checking the position of the center back.

He moves behind the Frenchman, which prevents Varane from seeing him and the ball at the same time, but more importantly, he constantly gets an updated picture of exactly where the ball is and how the players are positioned around it, and this is right up until De Bruyne shapes to cross, which means the number 9 has the most up-to-date mental picture of player positions and can then follow the flight of the ball.

Geir Jordet, a professor at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences and a researcher in scanning and psychology, analyzed Haaland and found that he is a significantly above-average scanner for a striker: his look-around-per-second rates are closer to of a central midfielder. .

Haaland’s ability to constantly see what’s going on and know player positioning could go some way to explaining his smooth transition from the bundesligawhere did he play Borussia Dortmund.

For City’s first game at Aston Villa in September, the goal is built in a slightly different way.

Haaland is placed in the back four and, as Bernardo Silva comes in to combine with De Bruyne, Haaland checks for space at the far post.

The timing here is crucial because Haaland knows where the space is and sees ashley young being pinned by Foden, even before De Bruyne has the ball.

Then, as De Bruyne moves into a center-right position, Haaland makes the arcing run to the far post where he finishes off with a touch.

Gundogan’s mesmerizing pass (golden arrow) earns City the fourth goal against Crystal Palace, but Haaland’s ability to withstand pressure from both centre-backs owes something to his vision…

He times the scan perfectly, looks over his left shoulder to see Ward’s position, and prepares for contact.

Knowing what is coming, Haaland shapes his body to protect the ball from Ward and use the pace of the ball to get away from the defender. Haaland only gives three touches. With the third, he scores.

Haaland has only scored once from outside the area this season, in Wolves in September, and it again came from him looking around before the ball was played, then exploiting the space before other players saw him.

In fact, even before Bernardo has controlled the ball, Haaland has detected the space between the Wolves central defenders (yellow circles) and calls for an early pass.

Having seen space early, Haaland moves before Bernardo has played the pass.

He then gets into a position in front of the defenders to line up a shot from outside the box and score.

After the 3-1 victory in leedsHaaland said he was “hungrier and smarter than ever” after his non-World cup break. His goals against Leeds and Everton suggest that could be true.

Liverpool‘s Mohamed Salah holds the record for most goals (32) in a 38-game season. However, Haaland is more likely to be eyeing the record of 34 goals, achieved by Andrew Cole and Alan Shearer when there were 22 teams in the Premier League.

And when he has something in his sights, Haaland does not usually fail.

(Top photo: Eddie Keogh/Getty Images)

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