Erling Haaland - Man City's New Striker 'Unplayable' As He Announces Himself In Style Against West Ham
The season opened with a 2-0 win for Manchester City over West Ham at the London Stadium, both goals scored by Erling Haaland. Gary Neville, a Sky Sports commentator, called the 22-year-old "unplayable," and he has added a deadly new dimension to Pep Guardiola's side.
After 35 minutes of Manchester City dominating at the London Stadium, Erling Haaland took over the game.
During that time, they had 85% of the ball but didn't do much with it.
Ilkay Gundogan started it by turning smartly when he got a pass from Joao Cancelo in a space on the left.
But it was Haaland's incredible speed that let him get to Gundogan's through ball before Alphonse Areola and win a penalty for City.
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It was the first time anyone had seen Haaland's outstanding physical qualities—the power and acceleration that make him such a deadly opponent—and the example of his finishing skill that came afterward.
His penalty kick was taken with a lot of poise, and it found the bottom corner.
Midway through the second half, Haaland scored again, showcasing the same qualities. Another flawless run, another sterile conclusion.
Gary Neville, a pundit for Sky Sports, characterized the condition as "unplayable" during co-commentary.
Thanks to Haaland's game-winning effort, the City breezed through this contest.
It was also an early indicator of how much the Norwegian could improve an already outstanding team.
Following last weekend's Community Shield loss to Liverpool, there was much discussion of having patience and giving the team time to adjust.
Pep Guardiola faced a lot of scrutiny before making his Premier League debut because of Haaland's dismal performance in that game, in which he only touched the ball 16 times and squandered a wonderful scoring chance by hitting the bar from close range.
The manager of Manchester City stated the following at his press conference:
"I don't know how many goals he'll score and I don't care. And now he is alongside Titi Henry, Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo."
When speaking to the press after the game, Guardiola claimed that one week ago, Haaland's could not adapt to playing in the Premier League, but today he is playing alongside Titi Henry, Alan Shearer, and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Guardiola was saying that stories can change quickly, but he will find it hard to hold back his excitement about Haaland now.
With his goals, he became only the second player in Manchester City's history to score twice in his first game in the Premier League. Which one? Sergio Aguero. From what we can tell so far, they now have a striker who can take over for the Argentine.
In the first half, he missed a chance to score when he misjudged the flight of a cross from Phil Foden.
Then, in the second half, he slid in too late to finish Kevin De Bruyne's pass, blocking Gundogan in the process.
There was also a great chance for a hat trick when the ball was headed over by Jack Grealish.
The good news for City is that Haaland was almost always where he needed to be, his hulking presence unsettling West Ham's defenders and providing an ideal target in and around the box for City's supporting forwards.
West Ham's defense was decimated by injuries, and they had no answers.
Haaland had five shots in his 78 minutes on the field, more than twice as many as anyone else, and he also led the team in touches in the opposition box with ten.
He is most lethal there, but there was much more to his performance than goal threat.
His towering presence alone was enough to cause confusion in West Ham's defense, drawing attention away from teammates on either side of him and creating space to exploit.
Following the event, Sky Sports pundit Roy Keane stated:
Haaland gives them a different option. City's passing, they toyed with West Ham. But even when teams push up, Haaland will threaten in behind now.
It's going to be a different challenge for defenders now with Haaland running in behind. West Ham didn't cope.
Haaland struggled to make an impact against Liverpool, but he linked the play effectively here, dropping into midfield and cushioning passes into the feet of teammates with his back to goal, then bombing forward to join attacks.
He found a teammate with 21 of his 23 passes, giving him a success rate of 91%. He could have had an assist if Declan Rice hadn't scrambled away his deft flick for the onrushing Grealish shortly after halftime.
What is truly terrifying, of course, is that he is only getting started.
When asked where the 22-year-old can still improve, Guardiola rattled off a laundry list of suggestions.
Guardiola mentioned: "His finishing with his head, his right [foot], his left, his control, his understanding of the game, his movement depending on what he has to do."
Haaland's post-game interview with Sky Sports, in which he used an obscenity in answer to a question about losing out on a hat-trick, made it abundantly evident that he has both the personality and talent for the big stage.
Haaland was the last Manchester City player to turn away from the jubilant away fans behind the goal at the London Stadium after the final whistle as they expressed their gratitude for what Guardiola called a "amazing" performance. Early indications indicate it might turn up again and again.
After the game, Sky Sports analyst Gary Neville compared Haaland to Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane because of the all-around threat he poses.
There are few players you see that have absolutely everything. The physicality, the strength, the power, the finishing, the understanding, the timing - they are unique. You could play against a Zinedine Zidane or a [Cristiano] Ronaldo when we were playing and think, 'There is nothing I can do here'.
Roy Keane considered that Erling Haaland is 'unplayable'. He is a giant and still young, so if he stays in shape, it will be hard for everyone else."
Keane also said, "Great look, great feel, and great motion. He will have chances. The fact he's on penalties means it could be 30 or 40 goals this season if he stays fit and healthy. He's got so much quality around him. Good luck to defenders."
Haaland gave a modest review of his performance when he talked to Sky Sports afterward.
It was a good start. It's still early in the season, so it's good to get minutes in the legs. We saw the potential against Bayern [in pre-season]. Against Liverpool it was a little bit down, but it will come with games. The passes will come. It should have been more today, but it's an OK start.
He also revealed:
"It's all about the connections in training every day and practicing this. We'll get better than this, I'm not worried. It's a big moment for me to make my debut in this competition-we have to keep going. It's been almost 30 minutes since I scored my last goal, so I have to keep on going. "
Meanwhile, Guardiola noted: "Erling scoring the two goals is important for him and for us, but we didn't have any doubts about a guy that has been scoring goals since he was born. It's always going to happen to him. "
When asked if Haaland adds a new dimension to City, Guardiola responded: "His qualities are what he gives us."
He continued: "He is adapting perfectly to the way we play and we are going to find him more. Hopefully, we will give him opportunities to score. We're not going to change much, just adapt, as now we have a threat there—an incredible runner and a special finisher. "