Chelsea are interested in signing the £150m-rated Erling Haaland but Borussia Dortmund have turned down their informal proposal; Thomas Tuchel wants a world-class finisher to resolve his side's goal-scoring issues
Friday 16 July 2021 07:04, UK
Erling Haaland did not get the opportunity to showcase his talent at this summer's European Championship due to Norway's failure to qualify. But with tournament over, his name has returned to dominate transfer headlines.
The Borussia Dortmund striker's future is the subject of intense speculation, with Sky Germany reporting Borussia Dortmund have turned down Chelsea's informal proposal.
Chelsea offered Dortmund either Tammy Abraham or Callum Hudson-Odoi in part exchange for Haaland, but the Bundesliga side are determined to hold onto the 20-year-old.
His agent, Mino Raiola, met with Barcelona and Real Madrid for talks in April, while Haaland has also attracted interest from Manchester City and Manchester United.
It is European champions Chelsea, however, who have emerged as the most serious suitors for the £150m-rated striker, with Thomas Tuchel reportedly identifying the Haaland as the man to resolve the side's long-standing issues at the top of the pitch.
Chelsea lacked a reliable presence in the penalty area, with Timo Werner and Abraham's 12 goals each making them the club's joint-top scorers.
The deal will not be easy to pull off, but here, we look at the scoring issues which have prompted Chelsea's interest and examine the ways in which Haaland could take them to another level.
Chelsea's finishing problem predates Tuchel's appointment. It was apparent throughout Frank Lampard's tenure and it was issue for Maurizio Sarri and even Antonio Conte before him.
Eden Hazard was prolific and Tammy Abraham has impressed in patches but the club have not had a truly elite presence in the central striking role since Diego Costa's departure in 2017.
Timo Werner may yet prove himself in that regard. He certainly has the pedigree having scored 95 times in 159 appearances for his previous club RB Leipzig.
But if Tuchel is to build on Chelsea's Champions League success, he knows it would be a huge risk to pin his hopes on a player who only scored six Premier League goals in his first season in England.
Werner's struggles in front of goal became a running theme of Chelsea's campaign. Even in their Champions League final triumph over Manchester City, he spurned several golden opportunities.
The Germany forward is more culpable than most when it comes to dissecting Chelsea's profligacy last season - his big-chance conversion rate was the third-lowest among players who scored six or more Premier League goals - but the issue is a collective one.
The most clinical teams are able to outperform their expected goals consistently, but Chelsea scored five fewer than they should have, based on the quality of chances created. Only four teams - Burnley, Brighton, Sheffield United and Fulham - were more wasteful.
Chelsea's shot conversion rate was similarly low. They converted just 14.4 per cent of their efforts on goal, according to Opta, putting them 14th among Premier League clubs, sandwiched between Southampton and relegated West Brom.
Creativity was not a problem - Chelsea ranked among the top four Premier League sides for chances created, big chances created and shots on goal - but they could not find the finishing to match, much to the frustration of Tuchel and Lampard before him.
Haaland would surely change all that.
The striker has become one of the most prolific scorers in Europe since his rise to prominence at Red Bull Salzburg.
Having hit 29 goals in 27 appearances during his time with the Austrian club, he has found the net at a similar rate since joining Borussia Dortmund in January of last year.
In total, the Norway international has scored 57 goals in 59 appearances for Dortmund, including a double in their German Cup triumph over RB Leipzig at the end of last season.
Few players are more clinical in front of goal and Haaland has demonstrated that ruthlessness consistently at Champions League level since making his debut in the competition with Red Bull Salzburg at the start of the 2019/20 campaign.
His total of 20 Champions League goals in the last two seasons puts him level with Barcelona's Lionel Messi and second only to Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski.
In terms of efficiency, however, Haaland is unrivalled. Remarkably, he has reached the 20-goal mark in just 16 appearances.
His average of a goal every 62.9 minutes is the best of any player to have hit at least seven goals in the competition across the last two seasons, while nobody even comes close to his 42.6 per cent shot conversion rate, with Alvaro Morata next best down on 30 per cent.
Such a staggeringly high conversion rate will be difficult - perhaps even impossible - to sustain over a longer period, but Haaland's numbers are similarly impressive in league games across the last season and a half since his switch to Dortmund.
During that period, only three players - Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi - have scored more goals in one of Europe's major leagues - but Haaland's conversion rate of 31.5 per cent again trumps all three of them.
In fact, of those to have attempted at least 50 shots in that timeframe, the only player in the Bundesliga, Premier League, La Liga, Serie A or Ligue 1 with a superior conversion rate is Crotone's 29-year-old striker Simy, who scored 20 times from 63 shots last season.
Haaland's underlying numbers, both domestically and in European competition, help to explain why he is viewed as a superstar-in-waiting. The prospect of him feeding off Mason Mount, Hakim Ziyech and the rest is a tantalising one for Chelsea.
Haaland's age obviously adds to his appeal - he only turned 20 at the start of last season - but it's his completeness, in addition to his finishing ability, which makes him so uniquely dangerous.
His 6ft 4in frame and fearsome physicality make him an ideal targetman and he also has the technical guile to hold the ball up and bring others into play, as well as a frightening level of pace.
Manchester City found that out during their Champions League quarter-final against Dortmund last season, with John Stones and Ruben Dias struggling to contain him at the Etihad Stadium and Pep Guardiola describing him as a "b*****d" to play against.
As Guardiola and his players witnessed first-hand, Haaland's various strengths mean he can be dangerous in all scenarios - from counter-attacks to set pieces. It is in the opposition penalty box, however, with the ball at his feet, that he comes to life.
Thirty-nine of his 40 Bundesliga goals have come from inside the box while 37 of them have been from open play. He is an expert at timing his runs and popping up in scoring positions. He then has the cool-headedness to apply the right finishes.
He specialises in finding the corners with his left foot from the left-hand side of the box but he is comfortable on his right foot too and tends to vary his runs to keep defenders guessing.
Chelsea are already dangerous from set pieces - only four Premier League sides scored more goals from dead-ball situations last season - but Haaland's threat from open play is precisely what they lack: the Blues ranked ninth for open-play goals in 2020/21.
It is one of few areas in which this Chelsea side continue to fall short. There has been remarkable defensive improvement under Tuchel. He has harnessed their quality in midfield and wide positions to excellent effect too. But a key ingredient is still missing. Throw in a goal scorer of Haaland's stature and they would become difficult for anyone to stop.