Are we the Farmers Union? It’s a fair question, certainly when concerns about whether Erling Haaland would adjust to life in the Premier League were considered fair just a few weeks ago. Some wondered if he would suit Manchester City’s playing style. Some wondered if he would have to pay “the Bundesliga tax”. Some more reasonably questioned whether he could be rested by many given his less than ideal injury record for this first midweek outing.
But after scoring his second hat-trick in a week and taking just 38 minutes to tear apart newly promoted Nottingham Forest, it’s the poor defenders who will have to face him every week until May and who will likely need him to lay down well.
To put things into context, the most goals scored by a player in a single Premier League season is 34, a tally shared by both Andrew Cole for Newcastle United in 1993-94 and Alan Shearer was managed for Blackburn Rovers the following year. But back then, a top season lasted 42 games. Mohamed Salah’s 2017-18 season is the best based on goal average, his 32 goals equating to 0.84 per game. Haaland is currently scoring 1.8 goals per game, more than double that record rate. He’s on track to score 68 points.
It’s only a small selection, of course, and it’s been a remarkably quick launch. Sooner or later he should slow down. But if there was ever a player who gave you reason to doubt your ability to see this through, mean the principle of regression, and beat it in a race, it’s that player on this team . It’s an outlier, an anomaly, an alien, a freak, and all the other insults meant as a term of endearment when used. And worrying for almost everyone but City, he’s just getting started.
In an opening fifteen minutes at the Etihad, when every Forest player’s first touch was a clearance, Haalands was a goal. His lack of involvement in City’s long periods of possession was briefly a topic of conversation following the only Premier League game he has drawn a gap in to date, the 3-0 win over Bournemouth here earlier this month. Strangely, it hasn’t been mentioned much since then. After all, does it really matter how many touches he has when he seems to be counting each of them?
It’s not like they’re easy degrees. At least not this one. Phil Foden’s cross from the inside left channel was easily deflected by Morgan Gibbs-White. The angle between Haaland, his marker Joe Worrall and the inside of the near post was tight. Yet with Worrall’s 6ft 3in frame held comfortably at arm’s length, there was enough room to lift the ball through the gap between the post and goaltender Dean Henderson with a skillful finish.
His second was much easier, but still a display of pure batting instinct. Perhaps the scariest thing about Haaland’s start is that it’s not all about speed, power and the raw power he possesses when chasing. He is perfect at standing still but standing in the right spot and anticipating where the ball might fall. That’s how it was when he shoved Foden on goal, only to see his teammate take a heavy touch and get wedged between Henderson and Neco Williams. Regardless, he was there to hit an empty net.
However, this strength and power cannot be underestimated. It was responsible for the third goal that City would rarely have scored without a presence like Haaland last season. Joao Cancelo sent a cross to the right post with the outside post. Foden headed back over the goal, Stones retaliated. Haaland was in the dead center of the six-yard box, poised to climb almost as high as the bar and nod off at close range. It was his ninth goal in five games, his sixth in 60 minutes and, presumably, his last significant act of the evening before being substituted at half-time.
But instead he stayed. Guardiola will manage his minutes in the coming weeks once the Champions League begins – he has already admitted that – but perhaps not even he could replace a striker who plays so compellingly. In any case, it was time for the opening act to take over. Cancelo added City’s fourth, scoring from outside the box when a Forest defense already playing for Pride offered him time and space. The fifth and sixth were the first Premier League goals of the career of Julian Alvarez, whose name would be much higher up in this report on any other night.
His finishes were brilliant – the first hitting a helpless Henderson at a tight angle, the second swept into the top left corner late. Alvarez is Haaland’s understudy for now, though, and you get the feeling it’s a role he’ll have to get used to. Haaland finally came on right after Alvarez’s first. He was replaced by none other than Kevin De Bruyne, long regarded as the best player on the best team in the league. After the path that Haaland started, even this truism could be in danger.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/man-city-nottingham-forest-result-final-score-haaland-b2157033.html Man City vs Nottingham Forest Result: Full Time Results, Goals, Highlights and Premier League Match Report