The ball ripples in the back of the net inside an empty Signal Iduna Park, having been deftly guided into the back of the Schalke goalkeeper’s net by the most prolific and composed of finishes from Borussia Dortmund’s young talisman Erling Haaland. It marked just the latest in the talented Norwegian’s incredible run of proficiency in front of goal as he seems to score with almost every touch with near mechanical efficiency.
Yet, there is nothing secret about how Haaland is so good as a striker. Watch him play and his movement off the ball is second to none. The Norwegian plays so much of his game without the ball and it allows him to be in the right position almost always to crack off a rocket of a finish with his thunderous left boot.
It’s not a style of football many in the modern game are used to from a young striking prodigy. Typically those who have founded fame and promise at a young age in the current iteration of the game have done so because of their silky skills, flashy goals and highlight reels. Haaland doesn’t particularly emphasise that in his game, even if the young star likely has the technical ability to do so if he wanted. Instead, his game is all about appearing in the right place at the right time and his near surgical awareness of where the goal is allows him to finish off the chances far more regularly than not.
Without a suitable modern day comparison available, the best instead is probably one of the Premier League’s finest strikers: Alan Shearer. Bias perhaps as a Newcastle supporter, but many people seem to forget just how incredible of a forward Shearer actually was in his prime. It was no fluke he is the all-time Premier League record goalscorer.
For every show-stopping strike he pulled off, there were multiple tap-ins. Those aren’t a criticism of Shearer but perhaps instead his biggest success. It wasn’t by accident he scored so many of them, but rather just as with Haaland, his movement off the ball was at an absolute peak. On instinct, he’d always be on the move, ready to receive the ball and score with minimal fuss. It’s arguably the most pure form of being a striker and Haaland looks set to become a master of it.