In recent years, transfers involving young Norwegian players have emphasised why it is important for clubs to monitor the country’s top-flight for unearthing talent.
Emerging prospects including Kristoffer Ajer, Sander Berge and most notably, Martin Ødegaard (Ødegaard was also the subject of an OptaPro analysis from 2015) have all moved directly to top-flight clubs abroad, whilst Southampton’s recent capture, Mohamed Elyounoussi, spent five years playing regular football for Sarpsborg and Molde prior to joining FC Basel in 2016.
The latest player making waves in the Eliteserien is 17-year-old forward Erling Håland, son of ex-Manchester City midfielder Alf-Inge, who recently scored four goals in a single match against Brann. In this blog we review his on-field performances during his career so far, to get a better understanding of why he is being linked with clubs across Europe.
Håland started his career with FK Bryne, where he made his first-team debut in 2016 at the age of just 15. A year later he was signed by Molde, who are managed by Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
Standing at 6’3 (191cm), the centre forward was slowly introduced into the Molde first team. In 2017 he made 14 league appearances, starting three times and racking up 436 on-field minutes. So far this season he has already nearly doubled his minutes with 843, featuring in 14 matches and starting eight. Securing regular minutes at such a young age can often be a useful indicator to initially assess a player, and Håland’s minutes on the field are a good starting point in showcasing his potential.
He has already scored 10 times in the league for Molde and his goal/minute ratio of one every 118 minutes is the most efficient return by any player who has played between 1000 and 2000 league minutes in an Eliteserien since 2012. He is repaying his manager’s faith by ranking second in the overall Eliteserien scoring charts this season.
What can he bring to a team?
When Håland has started matches in the Eliteserien he has been typically deployed as the lone striker within Molde’s preferred 4-3-3 formation. He also has experience of playing alongside a strike partner as last season he lined-up in a 3-5-2 on several occasions.
In addition to his height, Håland has great agility, acceleration and pace. He gets around the pitch smoothly and brings an elegance to the way he is able to control his body under high speeds.
With his towering physique, it would be expected for him to win his fair share of aerial duels, however he only won 12 of his 42 (28.6%) this year and just one of his goals for Molde has come from his head. His other nine have been scored with his preferred left foot.
Aerial duels won: 2018 Eliteserien forwards
*players with a minimum of 500 minutes played included
With the exception of one spectacular volley, which was converted from a cross played into the box against Sarpsborg (xG value 0.11), all of his goals have come from Opta-defined big chances. This could be as a result of more space being available for him, as five of his goals have been scored when the opposition were already losing.
Håland can run the channels as well as playing on the heels of the last defender - he is often put through on goal latching onto balls put beyond the defence. He is composed in his hold up play and calm when he bears down on goal in a 1v1 situation with the opposing goalkeeper. Not afraid to fail, he has scored two penalties out of the two he has taken this season.
Due to his relative inexperience, we only have a small sample of data available to highlight performance trends. However as we can see from the pitch map below, Håland has scored all of his league goals from inside the box, either from central or inside left positions. His career xG/shot ratio is 0.25, which demonstrates the high quality of chances being created for him by his Molde teammates and the good work he does to penetrate the penalty area. Only one of his career goals so far has been unassisted.
Erling Håland Eliteserien career shot locations - scaled by
Since his U16 international debut in 2015, Håland has progressed through the various Norwegian age groups.
Erling Håland Norway International Appearances: U16-U19
Information accurate as of 23/07/2018
Håland is currently in Finland with the Norway U19 squad taking part in the European Championships, where he finished as the top goalscorer in qualification with nine goals.
Despite having the fewest touches of any player who played the full 90 minutes in Norway's opening game against Portugal, he managed to have more shots than any other player and hit the woodwork three times. Unfortunately his side came out second best, losing 3-1. After taking four points in their final two group games, Norway finished third in the group, meaning they will play England in a World Cup qualification play-off match later this week.
Looking ahead, will he progress to the Norway U21 team or will he bypass them completely and receive a full international call-up? With Lars Lagerbäck’s team currently unbeaten in their last four games (beating three teams who played at the World Cup), you would imagine that if Håland were to play, he would need to play alongside another striker, as since late 2016 Lagerbäck has opted to utilise his favoured 4-4-2 formation.
In just a relatively short space of time, Håland has demonstrated how he can offer a big presence in that centre forward role. His ability to play with his back to goal or to play on the heels of the deepest defender allows him to easily slot into various formations and playing styles. The fact he is also willing to step up and take penalties suggests he is a strong character, willing to take extra responsibility for his team.
Whilst there is still a way to go before Håland can be considered a fully established pro, evidence would suggest he has a bright future in the game and you can expect that his exploits will not have gone unnoticed around Europe.