Hangeland has taken the Premier League by storm this season, prompting numerous clubs to claim an interest in his services. Forging a solid partnership with the underrated Aaron Hughes with Mark Schwarzer providing the custodial role, Hangeland has made an integral contribution to Fulham's solid defence (although less can be said of their strike force). The Texan-born Norwegian originally started his career at third division minnows FK Vidar, moving to Viking two seasons after and also joining the international set-up. Hangeland started to set a name for himself in the Norwegian league, being part of the Viking team that won the Norwegian Cup in 2001 (Let's face it, regardless of how good he is, he wasn't going to be able to break the tedious trend of Rosenborg BK winning the League). He then moved to FC Copenhagen where he got his first taste for European football - although hopefully not his last - and played well in the process, helping Copenhagen sweep up a double in his first season and winning the league for two consecutive years. Although I won't go into details, countless Danish and Norwegian fans have pointed to this point in his career as a real turn towards maturity in his playing style. In January of last season, he was brought into a struggling Fulham at the start of the Hodgson reign whilst still being unknown in the European footballing community. He's quickly changing this, after just about saving Fulham from the drop (although Murphy, Bullard, Nevland and McBride have received most of the credit for this), he has cemented his place in the first team and is increasingly winning over Premier League fans with his uncompromising defensive style, amazing height, decent heading ability and positional ability. Although I hate to go along with the stereotypical analogies provided by the media, he does seem to be in the same sort of mould as the chronically underrated Sami Hyypia.
He has excellent positioning and this has been undoubtedly shown at both FC Copenhagen and at Fulham. In fact it has been this quality of his that has led many to call him one of the best defenders in the Premier League, although I feel that's grossly overstated. Nonetheless, he does have decent positioning and the only reason that I haven't placed him at an 85 value is because I'd like to see how he'll fare in his second full season in the Premier League. Accompanying that is my own belief that he shouldn't have an equal value to Lucio just yet and, of course, the beloved arrow system will give him a decent arrow on one of the positive days, and with his Consistency value, there will be a lot of them.
For a man of his height he really doesn't dominate physically as much as he should, in fact it's surprised me at just how many players actually do outmuscle him. He was run ragged by the likes of Carlton Cole, Yakubu, Jason Roberts and Benjani Mwaruwari. And the circumstances where they did outmuscle him were clear cut; they weren't running straight at him, and therefore building enough momentum to blast past him regardless of strength, and they didn't use any underhand tactics to "outmuscle" (i.e. Volkan Demirel shoved Jan Koller in the Euros, this prompted Turkish stat makers to proclaim that he was stronger than Koller when, in actuality, he just caught Koller off guard). People forget that height means nothing, it's your build that correlates to strength (although even then, strength can be hidden), like Crouch he's very lanky, and if he were to have the same body build as Campbell or Koller then he'd be a brick wall. That's not to say that he's as weak as Crouch, there are very few that are! In fact, most of his physical strength is shown when in the opposition box when he's trying to vie a position for a header, I remember him completely out muscling Gallas in the Arsenal vs. Fulham match in September (he subsequently scored, poking it past Almunia), although that itself could be partly due to Arsenal's inability to defend from set-pieces. So if I were to sum him up, strength-wise, I'd say that he's a lot more like Senderos than he is Metzelder.
A skill that Hangeland has developed from his days as a defensive midfielder, yet he still incorporates it well into his playing style as a central defender. Roy Hodgson too has been able to use this asset successfully into Fulham with his tactics of a flowing, passing game (A tactic that he presumably picked up from his numerous managerial stints in the Serie A). Although Hangeland isn't that dangerous with his passing moves, he will surprise you with a fairly decent range of passing (for a defender at least) with accuracy.
Header & Jump
In comparison to most other defenders, his heading ability is largely quite good. In terms of the accuracy of his headers and headed passes he's in and around the same sort of region as Sylvain Distin and Sol Campbell. Heck, if the goal was just an inch wider then he'd have scored countless goals for Fulham having hit the bar many times since he's joined them. And yet, for a man of his height he really doesn't dominate the air as much as he should. His leap is rather lacking the vast majority of the time, although on a good day he'll get some height, simply by not reaching the sort of heights that he should. It's the technique he uses for leaping, he doesn't get enough spring and needs to bend his legs more. Although that's not the main issue he often doesn't leap, rather like a lot of players in his height range, thinking that his height and fantastic first touch will lead him to getting the ball anyway in a process I call Lateral Crouch Thinking. This proves to be a particular problem when you get a nippy poacher opposing him, someone like Robbie Keane, who will simply nick the ball from him whilst Hangeland waits for the ball to come to him. The first rule of heading is to attack the ball, and he doesn't do this when he defends set pieces. Anyway, I digress....
His first touch is often overlooked when people discuss Hangeland, and if anything it's one of the aspects that's been helpful towards Fulham's fluid passing system. He can reach out and take the ball away like a bullfrog with its tongue and - with his tall, lanky demeanour - will remind you of Peter Crouch in this sense. The sad thing is that he doesn't receive much appraisal for it, whereas the likes of Ferdinand and Puyol are revered so highly in this area. It's another area in which he can be compared to Hyypia, his first touch brings the ball down stylishly and thus destroying the attacking move in the process. Again, this is another value that will probably see an increase in the future and it could definitely be a yellow one!
I don't think there's a question about Hangeland's lack of fatigue; he's played every game for Fulham so far this season, he played nearly every game possible last season, and played every game
for FC Copenhagen in the 06/07 season.