Erling Haaland Manchester The legacy is never determined after a single performance in the Community Shield, and it certainly won’t be sealed after a single Premier League game in August. Whether his time in the union proves to be legendary or substandard, it will be sorted in time. But it is the scrutiny of his move from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City, and this is the pressure on him to introduce Pep Guardiola, that every performance of his will shine a spotlight on him. And his first experience in the Premier League couldn’t have been much better.
With a converted penalty and a clinical finish to a quick counter-attack, Haaland proved his worth in Sunday’s season opener with a 2-0 win over West Ham. His goal represented both of Manchester City’s goals on the day and may relieve some of the early anxiety surrounding his 16-time touchdown, which he missed on display against Liverpool last weekend.
The struggling Norwegian came on fire, leading to the penalty kick that would lead to City’s opener. Guardiola was particularly impressed by his willingness to take the penalty kick, not to mention his ability to convert it. There is an acknowledgment that with Haaland, City’s roof must be raised – which says something for a club that has won four of the last five Premier League titles and, as a result, goals and victories should flow. Despite his abysmal scoring record (86 goals in 89 games for Dortmund), not every match can be a masterpiece, but on Sunday, in which he wore a kit that looked oddly like Dortmund, at least the criticism subsided.
“I know how he handled a lot of criticism this week,” Guardiola said after the match. “He was really calm, he trained well but the way he took the ball to take the penalty kick I said, ‘I liked it’.
“Straightforward and I think if someone takes the ball, he will punch them in the face even though they are his buddies! And that is a very good sign. To be very confident, I like it.”
A second showed what kind of disruptive player can be in the open field. Last summer’s transfer picker Jack Grealish kicked off the movement, with Kevin De Bruyne finally splitting the defense with an in-between trademark in order to find Haaland in stride, trailing behind his mark. He didn’t even need to take a touch before getting ready to shoot, that was the weight of the pass, and that was the technique required to score. Instead of trying to get around the goalkeeper, he opened his hips and quietly used his left to pick out the back post. For a club that did not have a real striker last season, it can be said that he now has the best in the game, and in the moments required, he can show it.
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“Erling’s two goals is important for him, for the team and for us, and it’s another weapon we have now,” Guardiola said. “But at the same time it will not solve all our problems, it will add something to us as a team. That is what we are looking for.
“Today, the two goals were balls in front of the central defender and we had a feeling we would find him more.
“In the past we didn’t have a reference like him and now we have it again but at the same time the players had to put the ball in there, especially in transfers. It was a great second goal and a great job from Jack. He’s fueled by the ball, he keeps the ball, he pulls the opponents, he finds a pocket and when it happens That’s with Kevin, with one player, it’s hard to stop.”
Haaland had twice as many touches against West Ham as he did against Liverpool, and with the passage of time and the matches he will really referee – Champions League knockout matches – he will, in theory, have an even more adaptation to his new surroundings, his new league. He’s a player you’ll be asking questions every step of the way, no matter how many multi-goal performances he’s made in league games. But at the weekend when Liverpool lost points and Man United fell at home to Brighton, Manchester City continued to advance. And as for the debut, just like Haaland’s celebration of meditation, he couldn’t have been more calm and serene.
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