When Manchester City won the race ahead of the rest of Europe for the signature of Erling Haaland, many doubts were still cast over the signing of the prolific young goal scorer.
In the past few years, strikers who have moved from the Bundesliga to the likes of La Liga and the Premier League have not witnessed the same kind of success as in Germany.
Luka Jovic and Timo Werner are prime examples of forwards who were scoring goals for fun in the German league but failed to match those numbers abroad.
But City’s Norwegian frontman has swept aside all doubts over his capabilities following a terrific start to his time in Manchester. After four games into the new season, Haaland leads the scoring charts in PL with 6 goals.
It also took the 22-year-old just four games to score his first hat-trick for Pep Guardiola’s side as Haaland led a brilliant comeback against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
While his scoring prowess indicates that the youngster has transitioned smoothly into the English league, in reality, the situation is much more complicated.
Ever since Pep took over the Manchester club, City has excelled at playing possession-based football to choke and tire out their opponents with their quality on the ball.
The style of play is also one of the main reasons why City went on to win the PL last year without an out-and-out striker in the squad to lead the line.
But Haaland’s poor numbers of eight touches and two successful passes against Bournemouth throughout the 90 minutes suggests that perhaps the ex-BVB man is yet to embrace Pep’s passing philosophy at City.
Haaland’s 4 league matches so far:
32 touches, 21 passes vs West Ham
8 touches, 2 passes vs Bournemouth
33 touches, 13 passes vs Newcastle
16 touches, 6 passes vs Palace
While City fans are perhaps content with the striker’s numbers, for now, it looks like one of his City teammates has already asked more from Haaland’s game.
Following their win against Palace, Spanish midfielder Rodri touched upon the need for Haaland to adapt his game to the Man City standards while speaking in an interview.
As per the Telegraph, the Spaniard said that “it is tough in that position (striker) because we are used to playing with a false nine that moves a lot and now we have him as a reference who doesn’t move too much. He needs to adapt.”
The change in approach to City’s attack appears to have affected the squad as the club has not made the best of starts to their new campaign, having drawn once and conceded 5 goals already.
Moreover, although Gabriel Jesus gave Pep an option to play a target man, the likes of Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernando Silva played in the false-9 role during City’s important games over the last two seasons following the departure of Sergio Aguero.
Thus, the sudden inclusion of a forward who stays isolated up top could come as a bizarre shift in the plan for the City players.
While Rodri’s comments appear rather tough on a 22-year-old who is playing in the PL for the first time, the Spaniard also made sure to confirm his belief in Haaland as well.
“…we know the player he is and what he came from. He needs three touches to score a goal, he’s an incredible player…It’s normal, we have just been together for one month,” remarked Rodri.
As City prepare to begin their pursuit of the much sought-after Champions League trophy, perhaps an Erling Haaland with Guardiola’s coaching would be the ideal weapon to spearhead their chances of finally lifting Europe’s top prize.
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