We gave every big six club Haaland on FM23: the results were ridiculous

Quick Reads
Soccer Football - Champions League - Group G - Borussia Dortmund v Manchester City - Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund, Germany - October 25, 2022 Manchester City's Erling Braut Haaland applauds fans after the match

Erling Haaland won’t be at the World Cup, which means while 17 of his Manchester City team-mates run themselves into the ground in Qatar he can relax, train, and refine his game over a six-week period as stress-free as any he’s likely had in his short career. Somehow, a guy with 18 goals in 13 Premier League games is going to get even better.

Is he a cheat code? Is it really fair that the best team in the division should be able to just add the best striker in the world? That question is a little more complicated than it looks, because to add Haaland is to take something away from Man City’s usual tactics under Pep Guardiola, who adapted his system considerably to accommodate Haaland’s lack of pressing and minimal involvement outside the box.

So we decided to put it to the test by giving Haaland to each of the ‘Big Six’ clubs on Football Manage 2023 and fast forward a year. Here’s what happened:

Fanatical are offering 8% off Football Manager 2023 and you can get an extra 5% off (total discount 13%) using the discount code PLANETSPORT.

Man City still dominate, as do the Haalands…

The headline is that it makes no obvious difference to expectations for the season, assuming that Football Manager 23 wouldn’t, on average, expect Arsenal to have as good a campaign as they are having in real life. Man City win the league by ten points with a tally of 93.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this experiment is that Man City needed Haaland more than anyone else. Most of the other ‘Big Six’ clubs already have their forward line settled, or at least possess a striker who expects to start games, whereas there was a gaping hole in the City team and Haaland was perfect for them.

Guardiola’s side only lost three games all season – twice to Liverpool, once to Aston Villa – and marched clinically to their sixth title in seven years following elimination in the Champions League second round to Bayern Munich.

But the bigger story in England was the disturbing shape of the Golden Boot list. The cloning of Haaland a success, his replicants ran wild: only Tottenham Hotspur’s Haaland (we’ll explain why later) didn’t make it to the top of the charts.

Chelsea benefit by being adventurous

Chelsea’s Haaland was joint-top scorer with City’s Haaland on 23 after a fruitful campaign for Graham Potter who, enjoying the summer he didn’t get in real life, won 83 points to give Chelsea a second-place finish.

Using Haaland at the tip of a 3-4-2-1 formation gave the Norwegian the close support he needs, with Kai Havertz and Mason Mount – who scored 34 goals between them – providing in a fluid front three. Potter was undoubtedly the most adventurous and interesting in how he used his Haaland – and it nearly paid off spectacularly. Chelsea were 2-0 up on Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League semi-final but lost the second leg 2-0 and went out on penalties.

Haaland neatly fits the Ten Hag Way

Everything was going so well for Manchester United until the middle of April, but a run of 12 points from the final nine Premier League matches left them in fourth. Still, a successful transitional year for Erik ten Hag but it could have been so much more, an FA Cup semi-final defeat adding to the sense of a missed opportunity.

United’s success with Haaland is easy to understand. He simply replaced Cristiano Ronaldo at the tip of Ten Hag’s 4-3-3, and his direct style is relatively well-suited to the ‘vertical tiki-taka’ – to use FM language – favoured by the former Ajax manager.

Conte loses his marbles and benches Haaland

Antonio Conte got in a right muddle. You would think Harry Kane and Haaland together creates the same kind of dove-tailing strike partnership as Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku in his Inter Milan team, but it all got a bit much for Conte and Spurs basically fell apart.

They won just 62 points and finished sixth, with Conte preferring Kane as a lone striker. Haaland, inexplicably, was restricted to just 16 starts and endless cameos off the bench. No wonder things didn’t work out.

Arteta takes too long to learn

In direct contrast to real life, Arsenal got off to a dreadful start, winning just five points from their first six games, and spent the rest of the campaign battling to make up the deficit. There is logic to this: in reality the Gunners were finally settled and all the pieces were in place in time for the 2022/23 season. In our version, Haaland was plonked into an ill-fitting system and Arteta had to scramble to work it out.

Arteta rarely deviated from a 4-2-3-1 formation which meant shunting Gabriel Jesus out to the right flank, with mixed results; he still managed to score 19 goals in all competitions but the line-up was now far too attacking, hence a final points tally of 66 and a fifth-place finish.

Liverpool top-heavy

Nobody really believed Jurgen Klopp when he said back in April that he wanted ‘nothing to do with’ the transfer saga surrounding Haaland, but maybe he was telling the truth. What characterises all Klopp forwards is directness, speed, and sharp finishing… yet they also need to be able to work hard for the team and press from the front.

Does that explain Liverpool’s poor season, finishing third and winning 77 points? Mohamed Salah and Haaland both did well but it did mean limited time for Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez. The story of their season was being far too top-heavy, leading to some dodgy defensive performances as the year went on.

Fanatical are offering 8% off Football Manager 2023 and you can get an extra 5% off (total discount 13%) using the discount code PLANETSPORT.

READ NEXT: The top 10 players in the world, according to Football Manager 2023