They say records are there to be broken, and an in-form Erling Haaland reeled off another one on Wednesday: his 35th goal in 31 Premier League appearances, as defending champions Manchester City won 3-0 at home vs. West Ham, means the 22-year-old striker has made more history during a memorable debut campaign in England’s top-flight – 19 years after the last time it happened.
Haaland haunts the Hammers, not for the first time this term
- Haaland, who already broke the record for a 38-game season (Mohamed Salah, 32 in 2017-18), has moved past Alan Shearer and Andy Cole’s previous best of 34, set a season apart in the early 1990s (93-94, 94-95).
- Pep Guardiola on his striker’s latest achievement, per the BBC: “Incredible, he’s just 22 and still has five games left. How many games I made the substitution after a hat-trick in 60 minutes, maybe he’d have scored more but maybe got injured. He’s special, congratulations to him.”
- Norwegian later insists he would trade all his goals for a treble-winning season: City sit top of the Premier League with five games to play, have a Manchester Derby in the FA Cup final (June 3) and Spanish giants Real Madrid await them in the Champions League semi-finals (May 9, May 17).
There was a sense of inevitability that Erling Haaland would be the man to do it, given the fanfare and selective outrage about his Manchester City move last summer.
He scored both goals in his league debut on MD1 away at West Ham, so it’s somewhat fitting that the 22-year-old’s latest record also came against David Moyes’ side, who sit uncomfortably four points above the drop with four games left.
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30 of his 35 league strikes have been one-touch finishes per beIN Sports, and Jack Grealish’s incisive pass into his path left goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski in no man’s land as the Pole got fingertips to a clever chip but could only watch it float past him.
Sure, he makes it look easy with his Olympic-style sprints and an ominous presence, as someone blessed with physical gifts most could only imagine.
But that’s testament to the player he is, instinctive in-front of goal and in a team who allow him to thrive as their lone centre forward.
Continuing to make the right movements, maintaining spatial awareness and having patience to get into the best spots, even when the ball doesn’t come, isn’t easy.
Many critics still have questions about playing with his back to goal and he’s not faultless by any means, but an ability to score and produce matchwinning moments when not playing well is reminscent of Fernando Torres at the peak of his powers.
Would things be as straightforward under a different system, like Harry Kane juggling responsibilities at Tottenham? Probably not, but there’s a reason why Kane would’ve seen similar success for himself in City’s system two years ago.
Premier League’s big chances missed
1: Erling Haaland – 23
2: Darwin Nunes – 19
3: Marcus Rashford – 18
tied fourth: Mohamed Salah, Ollie Watkins – 17
tied fifth: Gabriel Jesus, Ivan Toney – 16
Now the onus will be on him to do the same as more of a playmaker, something he has shown in flashes, linking up with Phil Foden and Kevin de Bruyne in particular.
23 in July, he’s already averaging more than a goal every game at Eastlands (51 in 45, including eight assists) and you can hear the ambition isn’t limited to breaking goalscoring records when he speaks:
The next month will decide how he and his teammates reflect on another exciting season, and Pep’s caution with his star striker is natural given how niggling injuries have limited Kevin de Bruyne and others central to their success previously.
If he didn’t have multiple muscular issues during his Borussia Dortmund tenure, perhaps Norway – armed with Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard and Sheffield United’s Sander Berge among others – would be making more noise internationally.
Picture source: Getty Images