MARTIN KEOWN: Erling Haaland's pinching tactic is nothing new,

MARTIN KEOWN: Manchester City star Erling Haaland’s pinching tactic is nothing new, I used a similar technique against Roma legend Francesco Totti

  • Ben Mee revealed that Manchester City striker Erling Haaland pinches players
  • Halaand’s technique is nothing new; I adopted a similar approach when playing  
  • Francesco Totti ended up being sent off for trying to elbow me in the face 

Ben Mee, the Brentford defender, has revealed that Erling Haaland, Manchester City’s free scoring striker, has been up to some naughty tricks.

But there is nothing new in football as Mail Sport columnist Martin Keown knows only too well. 

There are different types of defenders in football and I definitely fell into the category of a ‘contact’ centre half. I wanted to leave an impression on my opponent from the off, usually starting the game with a cheeky ‘reducer’ — a firm but fair tackle to lay down my authority in our expected duel. 

I wanted to get into his head, test his temperament and upset his focus and concentration. Occasionally, that would include pinching him in the lower back.

I first encountered it myself in a European game with Arsenal and decided to bring it back to England. Some opponents refused to react, such as Gianluca Vialli. God rest his soul, Vialli was so focused and so professional that no matter what I did, I could not get him to react.

Manchester City striker Erling Haaland’s technique of pinching players isn’t a new phenomenon

Brentford defender Ben Mee revealed that Haaland often pinches opponents during games 

But other opponents fell into my trap on many occasions, sometimes reacting furiously, as if to say, ‘How dare you touch me?’ That was like a red rag to a bull for me. That was when I knew I had them on the rack.

That physical contact proved too much for Francesco Totti, who could not control himself and was sent off for repeatedly trying to elbow me in the face in a Champions League game in March 2003. Totti was dismissed and Roma were down to 10 men from the 22nd minute onward.

Now, Erling Haaland is terrorising Premier League defenders with not only his goalscoring record but his immense physical presence.

He’s become a ‘contact’ striker. It was traditional for defenders to try to bully strikers, but Haaland is doing it to them.

Roma striker Francesco Totti was sent off for repeatedly trying to elbow me in the face

Chelsea striker Gianluca Vialli didn’t react when I frequently pinched his lower back

I’m not surprised to hear Brentford’s Ben Mee say there was pinching involved in his duel with Haaland. Plenty of people will label this as the ‘dark arts’. But, like Haaland, I see it as simply seeking to try to gain an advantage over your opponent.

I noticed when Arsenal played Manchester City that Haaland was making much more use of his physicality. When City got their opening goal in that 3-1 win in February, Haaland was very clever in bumping William Saliba when the ball was in the air and seconds later, Kevin De Bruyne scored. 

If you’re playing against Haaland and you want to be physical, you’re playing a dangerous game so you have to go all-out to dominate him. You’ve got to be super-aggressive because you are going to be in for a tremendous battle.

He’s 6ft 5in, runs like the wind, soars through the air and now he’s enjoying this physical side of the Premier League and seeing the advantages that it brings him.

The sky is the limit what this 22-year-old striker can achieve.

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