• Daniel Gallagher-Parker

Beautiful brutality: Assessing Erling Haaland's start to life at Manchester City

Nobody needs reminding of Erling Haaland's record-breaking start to life at Manchester City but have you considered the stats behind the goals?

 

If you use social media at all, you will have noticed that a lot of people have been mentioning the difficulty of the Norwegian's chances, which is a fair point to be made, as six of Haaland's 11 Premier League goals have come inside the six-yard box. But why is it that he is the one scoring the goals from such close range?


Aside from City's #9's strength, power, aerial ability, finishing, and speed, one of the reasons he is one of the best strikers in the world is his fantastic movement. The majority of his goals have been one-touch finishes, which is as much credit to him for being in the correct position as it is for the players providing the assists.

Photo courtesy of NIGEL RODDIS/AFP via Getty Images

In the Premier League


In his first seven games in the English first division, the 6'5 striker is averaging a goal every 14 touches. Against Bournemouth, Haaland's only goalless game for City, in which he still left the field with an assist, he only had eight touches.


This is incredibly rare for a player under Pep Guardiola, not being involved in the game, but when you have attacking options such as Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez, you can't blame the Catalan for instructing Haaland to focus on finishing the chances that are created for him rather than try to create them himself.

An attribute that isn't talked about all that much is the fact the 22-year-old is very rarely offside. The former Borussia Dortmund man has only been offside twice in his opening seven league games for his new side. If you compare that to City's former Brazilian striker, Gabriel Jesus, his highest goalscoring season (14) for the Blues was 19/20, where he was offside a staggering 19 times in 34 Premier League appearances.


Haaland's second goal of his City career was a fantastic finish against West Ham where he latched onto a brilliant De Bruyne through ball. This sparked that particular debate about whether that same play would have ended in a goal if the receiver of the pass was Jesus or Raheem Sterling.


In his first two months at City, Haaland is already averaging 1.25 xG+A (expected goals and assists) per 90 minutes in the league, having scored 11 Premier League goals from an xG of 7.4; a staggering overperformance.


This comes from a total of 26 shots, with 17 hitting the target, one hitting the woodwork, and only five of his shots being denied by the goalkeeper. If it wasn't already obvious, City's summer signing is scoring at an electric rate of one goal for every 1.5 shots on target.


Haaland became the Premier League's highest-ever goal scorer after five games, netting nine times, and became the joint highest goalscorer after six, with 10 goals.


To put that into context, it took a City player, Sterling, six months to score 10 goals in the league last season, it has taken the lifelong City fan six games to match that feat.


His 11th goal was as impressive as any, as he received the ball bearing down on goal and let fire on the edge of the semi-circle, with his weak foot where he found the bottom left corner perfectly.

Photo courtesy of GEOFF CADDICK/AFP via Getty Images

It didn't take Haaland long to collect his first individual accolade at City, as he was awarded the August Premier League Player of the Month award for his nine goals and one assist.


However, his two goals in two games weren't enough to see him nominated for the September award, instead his teammate De Bruyne is among the nominees. Despite being a two-time PFA Player of the Year, the Belgian is yet to receive a POTM award.

Something quite interesting and worth noting is that City's average positions this season aren't too dissimilar from last season. Haaland is still operating in similar positions as whichever forward was tasked with operating as a false nine last season.


Out of his 14 goals in all competitions, 10 have been assisted by his City teammates. It will come as no surprise to anyone that De Bruyne is the creator of three of his goals, whilst an unlikely source in John Stones has had the joint second most contribution to Haaland's blistering start.


The English centre-half has surprisingly set the Norwegian up for an open goal twice already this season, with the other player with two assists being Foden, who had been slammed by City fans earlier in the season for not passing it enough to his fellow childhood City supporter.

Photo courtesy of Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

In the Champions League


Despite Guardiola's impressive tenure in Manchester, he has only reached the semi-finals and the final of the Champions League in the previous two seasons, where he opted to deploy a strikerless system the majority of the time. Jesus was on the field for 273 minutes of City's knockout phase last campaign, playing in a variety of different roles.


This was a vast improvement from 20/21, where he only featured for 150 minutes of the seven knockout games. Sergio Aguero, who has 41 goals in 79 Champions League appearances, was only given a few cameos due to injury, tallying an underwhelming 46 minutes out of a possible 630 minutes.

So how will Guardiola's side fare with a healthy, clinical striker up top for the first time in several years?


Well, if Haaland's first two Champions League games are anything to go by, they will once again be considered the frontrunners to lift Europe's most prestigious trophy.


The 22-year-old ran riot in Seville as he opened his account in the European competition with a brace. After only leaving Dortmund a few months ago, Haaland was reunited with his former teammates; this time, he left it late for his name to be written on the scoresheet.


The athletic centre-forward went airborne as he produced a wonderful goal that his manager compared to that of Johan Cruyff and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Photo courtesy of Michael Regan/Getty Images

After having only made 21 appearances in the competition, the goal-scoring machine has already wheeled off in celebration 26 times. This is only one less (27) than the likes of Rivaldo and Luis Suarez, who both made 73 appearances in the competition – just the 52 more games than Haaland has played.


There are only 35 players who have scored more than the City striker in the Champions League.


What's ahead for City's star-studded forward?


Up next for Haaland and his City teammates after the international break, which he has already scored once in, is the Manchester derby on Sunday, October 2nd. Haaland will be facing Manchester United for the first time in his career. After growing up a City fan and experiencing the rivalry first-hand, he will know exactly what to expect when the Red Devils turn up at the Etihad.

He may also be more motivated to leave some sour memories for United fans to deal with following the impact of the Roy Keane incident on him and his family after the Irishman's horrific challenge on his father Alfie Haaland many years ago.


There are now less than two months until an unprecedented World Cup pauses all club competitions for six weeks. Norway are not participating in Qatar, meaning Haaland will have a longer period to recover and regain peak fitness before entering the second half of the season, from Boxing Day onwards.

Photo courtesy of Alex Pantling/Getty Images
 

Written by: @DanGP17_