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I'd become Erling Haaland's worst nightmare if I played against him, says Martin Keown

MARTIN KEOWN PRACTICES TACTICS: How would I deal with Man City’s Erling Haaland? By becoming his worst nightmare! The Norwegian Man Mountain is a true No. 9, but defenders can upset him by being physical and starving him on duty

  • I would have loved to test myself against Man City striker Erling Haaland
  • It’s important for defenders to hit the Norwegian hard and upset him
  • West Ham takes on Haaland first and they have to cut the supply to him

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Every center in England will have Erling Haaland marked in their black book as a personal challenge. I would have loved to test myself against this man mountain which is a true No. 9 in every way thanks to its power, pace and poise.

Haaland looks like an honest competitor – someone with the brute strength to control himself and won’t fall easily under pressure from defenders – and I like that. Whenever I was faced with a big name contract that was new to England, that first contact was key – then you can say, ‘Welcome to the Premier League.’

One player who stands out is Gianluca Vialli when he signed with Chelsea in 1996. People seemed to be talking about him day and night, and I couldn’t wait to take on that first challenge. Since then I’ve had to apologize to Gianluca – he’s a great guy – and also say sorry to a whole host of other Premier League strikers!

Man City forward Erling Haaland will be a handful this season, but he is unstoppable

Man City forward Erling Haaland will be a handful this season, but he is unstoppable

I would have loved to have challenged myself against him and I would use my physicality to make him restless

I would have loved to have challenged myself against him and I would use my physicality to make him restless

I would have loved to have challenged myself against him and I would use my physicality to make him restless

If I faced Haaland this weekend, I would be using the tactics that worked for me throughout my career. I would embrace the physicality – I went hard in my tackles early on. I might even give him a little nudge as an annoying reminder of my presence.

He needs to know that I am as strong as he is, as fast as he is and as competitive as he is and that he will have to work to win every ball against me. You have to be his worst nightmare and make sure he knows he’s in a big fight when we meet. If he leaves thinking he’s had an easy afternoon, it gets worse every time you play him.

Haaland will give City a different dynamic. There was a moment during last weekend’s Community Shield when we saw a flash of what he will bring.

It's up to David Moyes and West Ham to bottle him up when they face him in the first league game

It's up to David Moyes and West Ham to bottle him up when they face him in the first league game

It’s up to David Moyes and West Ham to bottle him up when they face him in the first league game

Bernardo Silva had no choice but to play a hopeful pass towards Haaland. He kicked a difficult ball down, was muscular and faster than Andy Robertson and despite being under pressure he made a shot to test Adrian. That’s what can happen if you feed this 6ft 5in star and what happened to the impressive Robertson is sure to happen to a few others this year.

City will penalize opponents with passes and if they can’t hit you on one side they will recycle the ball and try the other. That’s how they’ve been programmed for the past two seasons using a false nine.

But now they have a buccaneer warrior in the middle that they just have to serve. During the Community Shield, there were times when City’s players could have gone straight to the big man but didn’t, which would have frustrated Haaland.

He won’t do what Phil Foden, Ilkay Gundogan or Kevin De Bruyne did when they acted like false nines and fell deep to participate in one-touch, two-touch football. He will remain high, central and close to goal to become a handful of central defenders in the Premier League.

Haaland gets mad when he doesn't get the ball, so the Hammers have to starve him on duty

Haaland gets mad when he doesn't get the ball, so the Hammers have to starve him on duty

Haaland gets mad when he doesn’t get the ball, so the Hammers have to starve him on duty

City’s players are so intelligent in the way they play that it won’t be long before they start providing Haaland with the service he needs. They will learn that they don’t always have to make 10, 20, 30 passes to get a chance when they can go straight into their striker.

Liverpool are an avid presser, so the Community Shield would always be a challenge for the Norwegian – especially when he wasn’t quite fit after limited pre-season preparation and was suddenly faced with Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip, the best defensive partnership of the Premier League.

Then it’s the turn of the West Ham defenders to bottle him up. At Dortmund, Haaland would have gotten angry if his teammates didn’t give him the ball. Since he’s new to City, it might be a little early for that. But given his skills, Haaland will soon make his presence felt in City’s dressing room.

It’s up to the centre-backs to find a way to stop him and we should see some exciting fights this season.

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