This season, Erling Haaland will break a number of Premier League records, but his scoring rate has slowed.
The Erling Haaland debate began when he sent a shot skyward on his Manchester City debut in the Community Shield.
Could he make a name for himself in English football? Was he exaggerating? Is he going to make things worse in City? 32 goals in the next 30 games is a resounding response to all the skeptics. This season, Haaland will most likely win the Premier League Golden Boot, setting a new record in the process. If City wins the title, he will have been a key factor in a season in which they have rarely looked at their best.
Yet a concerning trend is developing that City cannot ignore. And this weekend’s glaring miss at Nottingham Forest sums up how much the Blues struggle to get results if Haaland has a rare off-day.
When Haaland hit the bar and followed it up with an effort best suited to rugby union than football, it brought back immediate memories of that Community Shield miss. There will be no doubts about his ability to bounce back this time, and Pep Guardiola did back his number nine to dust himself off and come again.
Forest’s goal hero Chris Wood stopped short of offering Haaland advice on how to respond to a poor afternoon, saying: “He’ll probably go and score a hat-trick. It ain’t going to faze him. You miss opportunities as strikers but what makes a top-quality striker is you forget the misses as soon as you’ve done it.
“You must move on because another opportunity will present itself. In a team like his, there will undoubtedly be another one for him on Wednesday. I’m sure he’s not bothered; in his City career, he’s done more good than harm. He’s been amazing.”
Correct, and chances will undoubtedly come in the next three games, against RB Leipzig, Bournemouth, and Bristol City, if he is selected.
Guardiola will surely start Haaland in Germany in an important Champions League fixture, with the following two games usually opportunities to rest him. If Guardiola looks at City’s record, and that of Haaland, the justification to keep playing him is strengthened.
After scoring a ridiculous 20 goals in his first 13 appearances for City, and 27 in his first 21, Haaland has just five in his last ten outings for City at a rate of a goal every 154 minutes – a far cry from a goal every hour before the World Cup. Still, if City were offered that scoring rate when Haaland signed, they would hardly have complained.
What is more concerning, is that when Haaland doesn’t score, neither does City. In those first 21 games, Haaland only blanked on five occasions. He’s failed to net in six of the next ten, and there have been three defeats and a draw in that run.
In fact, of the 12 games Haaland hasn’t scored for City, they have failed to score in four and only scored once six times. The record when Haaland can’t get a goal is four wins, two draws, and six defeats, with a win rate of only 33 percent. As a team, the Blues average just over a goal a game when Haaland doesn’t score.
On the contrary, when Haaland does score, City has never lost and only drawn three in 19 games – a win rate of 84 percent. The goals-per-game figure shoots up to 3.2 in those instances.
Kyle Walker was firm when he said the Blue’s back line must be strong and keep clean sheets on the days when their strikers aren’t firing. Yet there have only been four clean sheets in those 12 games when Haaland doesn’t score. It’s a squad-wide issue.
The natural next step this week in Germany is for Haaland to score a hat-trick or an important goal as he did at Arsenal to silence the doubters again. After that, Bournemouth and Bristol City will be targeted as Haaland has never gone more than three games without scoring for City.
This weekend, though, reminded us that Haaland is still human, and it’s fair to question how effective City’s Plan B actually is.