Hakon Haraldsson

How did Haraldsson regain his starting spot at LOSC?

How did Haraldsson regain his starting spot at LOSC?

Publish on 04/04 at 23:00 - E. RAZO


As we approach the exciting finale of the 2023-24 season, one which will be filled with challenges for LOSC Lille in both Ligue 1 and the UEFA Europa Conference League, Hakon Haraldsson continues to prove himself a reliable offensive player for Paulo Fonseca and his team.

Haraldsson experienced his first Derby du Nord from the bench last October, but this past weekend, he took to the pitch for the full 90 minutes. The 20-year-old got off to a good start in Ligue 1, featuring in the first seven matchdays for Lille. Still, in the following 14 matches, he only played 124 minutes across seven appearances. The decline in minutes revealed his status on the team, but his situation has significantly changed.

The trend: Making four consecutive starts

Haraldsson has returned to the spotlight with a bang, netting his first goal in France's top flight against Toulouse on February 25th and securing four consecutive starts in the league.

The young player's versatility to excel on the wing or in the midfield makes him a standout choice for Fonseca, especially with Angel Gomes sidelined due to injury. As Matchday 28 at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy draws near, Haraldsson can expect to play a pivotal role in the upcoming showdown against Marseille.

The first half of Lille's season was shrouded in mystery, but now the Icelandic player is making his mark in the LOSC attack. They've won 44.5 percent of their matches with him on the pitch, compared to just 37.5 percent without him. This indicates that Haraldsson is hitting his stride, echoing the journey of Edon Zhegrova, another foreign talent at Lille who took time to unleash his full potential.


The mindset: The key to success in the French Cup

In 2024, Haraldsson kicked off the year with a boom. After the holiday break, he entered the new year with a goal-scoring touch, boosting his confidence with Lille. He netted twice in the French Cup against Golden Lion on January 6th. 

This stellar performance not only lifted Haraldsson's spirits but also earned him praise from the 

Portuguese coach, who emphasized the significance of his confidence on the field. 

"At the beginning, it's crucial to understand that young players, especially when they switch countries, require time to settle. Hakon is beginning to grasp our style of play and gel with his teammates. Lately, he's been making significant strides. Today, he's even better," remarked Paulo Fonseca in early March.

Just 15 days later, Haraldsson continued his impressive form. He secured his team's spot in the Coupe de France Round of 16 with a stunning direct free-kick goal against Racing, sealing a narrow 1-0 victory.

A successful and gradual integration

At the start of the season, he seemed reserved and somewhat uneasy on the pitch. But now, Haraldsson strides into press conferences, bantering with the LOSC translator, encapsulating the remarkable transformation of this young attacking midfielder.

Haraldsson has seamlessly integrated into the Lille squad in the seven months since his arrival. He shares a camaraderie with Swede Gabriel Gudmundsson in the locker room, occasionally vying for a spot in the starting lineup. While he primarily converses in English, his comfort on the French pitches grows unabated.

The Physical Aspect: A Paying Effort

Aside from his technical prowess, Lille's No. 7 has significantly enhanced his physical conditioning, resulting in a marked decrease in his vulnerability during duels. While his current success rate in elite duels stands at 44 percent, with 32 victories, still trailing behind his teammates Tiago Santos and Benjamin André, who boast a 58 percent success rate, Haraldsson has showcased notable improvement in his last four starting appearances (58 percent).

"The hard work in the gym, nearly four times a week, alongside the fitness coaches, has definitely paid off. I feel stronger, and it's not just me; people have been noticing it too," Haraldsson said.

Stats are skyrocketing!

"I'm feeling confident and eager to keep up this momentum," exclaimed the young Lille player following his debut goal in Ligue 1 against Toulouse on February 25th. His boldness and recent success, particularly in dribbling, speak volumes; he's nailed six out of his last seven attempts in the top flight.

Within the team, he's climbed to eighth place in successful dribbles and ninth place in final passes before shots.

Once a substitute in ten out of his 18 matches in the top flight, Haraldsson has cemented his spot as a regular starter with Les Dogues, consistently delivering stellar performances. Despite ranking 16th in playing time for Lille (727 minutes), his last four matchdays have seen his three longest stints on the pitch (83, 84, and 84 minutes).

His stats over the past four matches in Ligue 1 peak volumes:

  • Five attempted shots (83 percent of his total this season)

  • Three shots on target (75 percent of his total this season)

  • Six successful dribbles (50 percent of his total this season)

  • 15 duels won (47 percent of his total this season)

  • Ten touches in the opponent's penalty area (45 percent of his total this season)

In the Europa Conference League, where he's started the last three matches, he's also played a vital role in Lille's journey to the quarterfinals. Notably, his powerful and floating shot set up Jonathan David's second goal against Sturm Graz in Austria.

Tactical Preference: Deciding in the Moment

The left-wing position at LOSC seems to be in flux this season. However, the Icelander has been given the nod each time for the last three matches. Fonseca has been open about how Haraldsson's limitations fit into his tactical plans.

"We can only utilize Hakon when our winger moves inside. Playing wide poses challenges for him. He thrives in spaces closer to the center," explained the Portuguese tactician back in January.

Yet, these limitations haven't hindered him thus far. In fact, Fonseca's choices seem to favor the inclusion of the summer recruit. With Ivan Cavaleiro, Rémy Cabella, Adam Ounas, and Ayyoub Bouaddi also in contention, there's a wealth of options for midfield and the left side. The question now looms: Will the Icelander retain his starting spot?


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