- Nationality: Norwegian
- Age: 20
- Date of birth: 12/10/1999
- Current Club: AC Milan
- Career: FK Bodø/Glimt, Aalesunds FK (L), AC Milan
- Position: Left Wing
- Secondary position: Right Wing
- Preferred foot: Right
In June earlier this year, Bodø/Glimt accepted a bid worth around €1million from Belgian side Cercle Brugge for their 20-year-old winger Jens Petter Hauge. However, at the end of July, with Glimt unbeaten at the top of the league and Hauge beginning to earn admirers from bigger clubs, he changed his mind and decided to turn down the move in favour of staying in Norway, citing that he wanted to see the season out and aim to win the Eliteserien title with his hometown club.
Fast forward two months and his decision has been proven to be a mature and justified one, with Glimt still unbeaten at the top of the league and Hauge completing a move to Italian giants AC Milan in a deal worth around €5million. Whilst Hauge may not be at Glimt to lift the trophy at the end of the season, he has been a massive part of their success and will leave the club in an extremely strong position to win the Eliteserien for the first time in their history.
Hauge has been in incredible form, with 14 goals (3 penalties) and 10 assists as part of a free-flowing attacking side that has already scored 69 (!) goals in 20 league games so far this season. Starting on the left wing in a 4-3-3 formation, Hauge has been given almost complete creative freedom by Glimt Head Coach Kjetil Knutsen to receive the ball all over the pitch, often in central areas where he likes to cut inside onto his stronger right foot.
The whole team enjoys a chemistry and understanding of each other that has allowed them to play some of the most attractive football in Europe this season and Hauge has been central to that alongside Dane Philip Zinckernagel, Hauge’s main contender for the Eliteserien Player of the Season with a similarly incredible 14 goals and 12 assists. Patrick Berg, another academy graduate in the first-team alongside the likes of Hauge and Fredrik André Bjørkan, has been Glimt’s heartbeat and most important player in my opinion but the dynamic attacking talent of Hauge has marked him out as the teams prized asset.
The move to Serie A will be a difficult step-up in quality but Hauge looks ready to test himself at a higher level, as shown by his performance against AC Milan in the Europa League, where he scored one goal and set up another as Glimt lost in the third qualifying round.
On the ball
Hauge is an unpredictable and versatile attacker who is able to influence games through a variety of different ways. He is most comfortable with the ball at his feet and will often come deep to receive the ball before using his dribbling ability to drive the team forward, as reflected in his 4.5 progressive runs per 90 in the Eliteserien this season. He is a dynamic and agile ball-carrier with an ability to keep close control of the ball when travelling at speed that often sees him skip past and slalom through challenges.
However, he also has a good awareness of when to hold his wide position and exploit the space often left in the channels by teams who try to stay compact and guard against the speed with which Glimt can attack. This makes him very difficult to defend against as he is able to go either way when attacking a defender 1v1, either cutting inside onto his right foot or driving to the byline to get into a crossing position. He was averaging 8.3 dribbles p/90 in the Eliteserien with a 60% success rate, showing both the frequency with which he likes to take on opponents and his effectiveness in doing so.
He is extremely effective in tight spaces, where he looks to draw his opponent towards him before using quick changes of direction, a piece of skill or a burst of speed to evade pressure and accelerate into space. This is also made possible by his intelligent use of the body to protect the ball and disguise his movements with quick feints that make him very difficult to dispossess on the ball. His ability to receive the ball on the turn and travel forward at speed is very effective at putting the team on the front foot and creating attacking overloads.
He will, of course, have a different role in the team at AC Milan and, with the passing abilities of players such as Sandro Tonali and Ismaël Bennacer in midfield, we are unlikely to see him coming deep to collect the ball and single-handedly driving the team forward in the same way. His ball progression is amongst his biggest strengths, however, and AC Milan should look to utilise his ability with the ball at his feet if they are to get the best out of him.
Hauge has scored a lot of his goals this season through his ability to find and create space for himself to get into a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper where he will look to open up his body and find the bottom right corner. He will often look to cut inside onto his right foot and get a shot on goal, averaging 2.7 shots p/90 in the Eliteserien. His shooting accuracy has improved this season, as well as his composure in front of goal, and he is now starting to consistently find the corners when shooting from in and around the box, with his 14 goals impressively outperforming his xG of 10.14.
He has also shown sharp movement in the box and an instinctive ability to first recognise the space to move into and then react quickly to get on the end of a cutback, as seen by his 6.6 touches in the penalty box p/90. The wealth of attacking talent in this Glimt team means that Hauge is not having to create shooting opportunities for himself all the time and good chances are being created for him regularly by his teammates, something that shouldn’t be overlooked when looking at his goalscoring record.
He will need to continue to raise his game in front of goal and be more clinical as he will not be given as many goalscoring opportunities in Serie A as he was in the Eliteserien. He has been guilty of squandering big chances at times this season, including 2 penalty misses, but has usually found himself with a number of similar opportunities over the course of the game. That will not be the case in Italy and, with an increase in the quality of both the defending and goalkeeping, ensuring that he continues to get into the right positions and takes his chances in front of goal will be important to his early success at the club.
Hauge’s passing is probably the part of the game that could improve the most and in Italy, where the art of passing is perhaps appreciated more than anywhere else, he will be in the perfect environment to do so. He relies on his dribbling ability to progress the ball more so than his passing so will often do most of the work with the ball at his feet and leave himself with a fairly simple pass at the end.
Even so, he was averaging 39.8 passes p/90 with an 83.5% success rate in the Eliteserien, partly a reflection of Glimt’s possession-based approach but also an indication that he is contributing to the team with his passing as well as dribbling ability.
Glimt like to flood the box the bodies and this suits Hauge well as he will often drive to the byline and cut the ball back into an area where there will be a number of people to aim for. The quality of his delivery from wide positions will need to improve in a team that will not have as much emphasis on getting bodies into the box and he will need to work on picking people out rather than cutting the ball back into danger zones where at Glimt there was so often a teammate in the right position. He may also be asked to cross aerially more often with players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the team and, if this is the case, he would benefit from adding more pace and accuracy to his deliveries as opposed to just looking to stand the ball up at the back-post.
He does create shooting opportunities for others just as effectively as he creates shooting opportunities for himself, especially when cutting inside and dragging defenders out of position to leave space for his teammates to exploit in wide positions. However, as is so often the case with young players, his decision-making could be improved as there are times where he will go for the shot when the pass is a better option, a part of his game I believe will improve as he matures and develops.
It’s also worth mentioning that Hauge is often a very unselfish player and is a good example of the strong sense of team unity at Glimt that sees everyone contributing in front of goal.
Off the ball
Hauge is 5’10” so is fairly tall for a winger and, despite his slim build, he has a deceptive upper body strength that allows him to hold off opponents and protect the ball. He possesses explosive pace and utilises this to good effect when taking opponents on, as well as when running in behind and looking to receive through balls. This makes him very dangerous on the counter-attack as he is able to cover ground quickly and create attacking overloads after possession turnovers.
Hauge is a player with a lot of confidence and trust in his ability and this is clearly seen by his willingness to drive at opponents and take people on. In recent weeks he seemed to add a level of nonchalance to his game that made it look easy for him at that level and this move will be a good way of ensuring he continues to be challenged and does not get too comfortable.
As previously discussed, his attitude and work-rate off the ball is very good and he is very unlikely to drift in and out of games as he will come deep and actively seek the ball if he goes through periods of not being involved in the game. It is worth mentioning that he has been playing in a team that has gone 20 games in the league without losing so we have not had the chance to see how he reacts when things are not going his way.
Glimt have hardly been behind in a game all season and have consistently dominated possession so Hauge will have become accustomed to winning. This is obviously not a bad habit to get into but it will be a test of his mentality and attitude if he is now playing in a team that will not dominate games in the same way.
There is also the added pressure of playing for a team as historic as AC Milan and there will be a certain weight of expectation as one of only a handful of Norwegians to wear the famous red and black stripes. All the signs so far, however, point towards a level-headed, pro-active, and hard-working player so I am confident in his ability to deal with the challenges he may face over the next few months.
Glimt look to dominate possession and press high up the pitch to keep the opposition camped inside their own half so it is fair to say that Hauge is not required to do a lot of defending in this side. However, he has a good understanding with left-back Fredrik André Bjørkan, both offensively and defensively, which sees them double-up on opposition wingers and work together to stop crosses coming into the box.
He also presses very well and works hard out of possession, with the front three moving as a unit to limit opponents time on the ball and try to win the ball back high up the pitch. He was averaging 2.9 recoveries in the opposition half p/90, a high number that reflects the effectiveness of Glimt’s pressing strategy and the effort that Hauge puts in off the ball. If Glimt do win possession, Hauge is immediately on the move to find space as they look to attack with speed in order to prevent the opposition from regaining their defensive structure.
Hauge is one of the most exciting young players in Europe at the moment and he has the necessary skillset to play at the very highest level. He now gets to test his ability at a top team in a top league and, whilst we can expect a period of transition in a completely new environment and a very challenging step-up in quality, this move will be very important in furthering his development after a fantastic season in the Eliteserien.
It is important to note that his role in the team at AC Milan will be very different to the one he had at Glimt. He may not have the same level of positional freedom that he had in Norway and he may not be required to progress the ball from deep with more technically-gifted players in midfield. However, his game will be raised by the level of his teammates and he has a real opportunity to assert himself in the first-team, with Milan still undergoing a rebuild that has seen them bring in a number of talented young players this summer.
The future is very bright for Jens Petter Hauge and, with a goal at the San Siro already to his name, we can be confident of seeing more in the near future from one of the biggest exports in Eliteserien history.
• Stats provided by Wyscout and refer to Hauge in the 2020 Eliteserien season.
• Any feedback welcome, you can find me on Twitter here – @fraser_clark.