Apr 28, 2023 7:57 pm
The goalscoring sensation that is Erling Haaland has now broken the Premier League goalscoring record, but just how good is the Norwegian, and can he become even better?
It was not so long ago that Mohamed Salah took the Premier League by storm in his first season at Liverpool, where he shook up the league and created history by surpassing the 31-goal record that Alan Shearer (1995–96), Cristiano Ronaldo (2007–08), and Luis Suarez (2013–14) set in their respective 38-game seasons.
However, Erling Haaland has made these astonishing tallies look like records for only mere mortals, brushing past some of the best goal-scorers we have ever seen at a canter on Wednesday evening, dispatching City’s fourth to crush Arsenal’s title aspirations, delivering his 33rd goal of the campaign.
Also breaking the record for the most goals in a single season by a Premier League player in all competitions (44), he will undoubtedly set a new record that will take some beating, sitting on 49 goals in all competitions, with a maximum of 11 games remaining to extend that record.
Now the Norweigan looks set to demolish the records that Alan Shearer (1994–94) and Andy Cole (1993–94) set in 42-game top-flight seasons, where the two legendary strikers scored 34 goals in a season, the most that we have ever witnessed at this level.
Perhaps, though, this is a level that we have never quite laid eyes upon on these shores, having never hosted a player of this echelon before in their prime.
Is Haaland on Messi & Ronaldo’s Level?
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are really the only two players that can stack up to Haaland’s numbers, but even two of the best to ever lace up a pair of boots may struggle to see their records live on, as even their goalscoring tallies at age 22 were not this inconceivable.
This is the best player we have ever had the privilege to watch week in and week out since Ronaldo’s Ballon d’Or-winning season, where he produced astonishing numbers from an old-school wide position.
Although Erling is different, he may not have the trickery and flair of Ronaldo that captivated the Premier League, but what he does, he does exceptionally well, possibly to the highest standard that we have ever seen before.
Manchester City teammate Bernardo Silva, who has played with Ronaldo for Portugal, believes that Haaland is at a similar level to the former Real Madrid, Manchester United, and Juventus legend, telling Arab News: “The goal figures, it’s unbelievable; it’s Cristiano and Messi level, that amount of goals.
“Hopefully, Erling can keep going that way because we need his goals until the last game of the season.”
“He has definitely got the same mentality as Cristiano, always wanting to be in the box, always wanting to score.”
“He doesn’t care if he touches the ball one or two times; when he touches, he scores.” “He’s just a proper striker.”
His numbers are outrageous and are certainly at the level of Ronaldo and Messi, but there is an aspect to his game that could leave him short of that conversation.
While not as bad as some make out, Haaland can be clumsy at times under possession—not often, but often enough to notice. Ronaldo and certainly Messi had the unquantifiable ability to get fans off their feet due to their excellence in ball manipulation, allowing them to bamboozle opposition defenders at times, which is a component in Haaland’s game that lacks in comparison.
On the goalscoring front though, Haaland is undoubtedly in the same league, and by the current goalscoring rate that he has set since joining Borussia Dortmund back in December 2019, we could see him tear apart records we would have never imagined being broken anytime soon.
Is Haaland the Best Player in the world?
Currently speaking, Haaland has 49 goals in all competitions, recently breaking the Premier League record on 33 and leading the scoring chart in the UEFA Champions League on 12, with the other four coming in the FA Cup and League Cup.
Due to the forward’s big frame, at times he may not look the most convincing to the eye and may need the occasional extra touch to get the ball out of his feet to distribute to his sky-blue teammates.
Earlier in the season, there were even rumblings of former players and pundits suggesting that City were indeed a better side with Julian Alvarez or a false nine up top, believing that Haaland negatively impacted the way the side could hold possession and fluidly open sides up.
However, after landing themselves in a position to complete the treble and looking like the favourites for every competition left available both domestically and in Europe, the proposals for Pep Guardiola to perhaps drop Haaland have quickly died down.
It has taken time for Pep to find the best team to complement his new forward, but it was never in doubt that Haaland is undroppable; he is too good not to use.
Right now, no other player in Europe is leaving the same amount of wreckage in their trail, with anything less than a hat trick being considered a quiet game.
When considering the Ballon d’Or, Lionel Messi is the only player who can hold a candle to Erling Haaland’s season at Manchester City.
A World Cup win is what will most likely sway the award towards the Argentinian’s path; however, if Manchester City were able to achieve a treble at the end of the season, it could become a completely different conversation by the time the award is handed out.
What Makes him so good?
Simply put, Haaland is just a complete centre-forward; he provides Manchester City with the option to knock the ball long when needed, can drop into pockets to help link-up play when needed, and most importantly, he can score lots and lots of goals.
The movement that he provides in tight spaces is the most impressive thing about Haaland; he just gets it; he knows where to be and when to be there, and once he’s in the position, he rarely misses.
Does he play on a team that creates a lot of scenarios that give him the best scoring opportunities? Yes, but does he also create chances for himself with how elite his movement is? Absolutely.
Physically, Haaland has all the gifts that an elite forward could dream of: being a weapon in transitions, pressing from the front with his electrifying pace, and being too big to be knocked off the ball with his upper body strength.
Combine the elite understanding of movement with the physical gifts Haaland has, his relentless mentality to get into scoring positions, and a lethal touch in front of goal, and it is a recipe for a goalscoring machine.
But his current goalscoring rampage is not solely down to him; he has a dazzling squad of footballers around him, with the most important of them all, Kevin De Bruyne, feeding him chances.
The Belgian’s ability to whip the ball on a plate at the back post has paid dividends multiple times this season, allowing Haaland to gobble up tap-ins at the back post.
“De Bruyne through to Haaland, GOAL” is a phrase that we have heard many times this season and will likely be the case as long as the best chance creator and best goalscorer in the world stay in Manchester City’s ranks.
Can he improve?
Although the question many are yet to properly digest is, “Can Haaland become even better at the age of 22 working under Pep Guardiola?”
Realistically speaking, there is most likely a ceiling to how good Haaland can become technically due to his physical build, but there is a small flaw to Haaland’s game that, if he realises, could make him even more dangerous.
By no means does he get bullied in games, but at times this season, he has notably been less physical in his approach to matches than other strikers who have had similar physical statures throughout Premier League history.
If Haaland can learn to love and thrive off of physical contact in a similar fashion to what Zlatan Ibrahimovich and Didier Drogba did, for example, he could become not only the most fearsome goalscorer in the world but also the most feared man to duel with.
This may not be an art that Haaland must master immediately, but as he grows older, fills his frame even more, and begins to not rely as much on the burst of acceleration, it could become another elite tool in the marksman’s arsenal and could offer another dimension to his already fantastic skillset.
Even without this aspect of his game mastered yet, Haaland is the best striker that the Premier League has ever witnessed, and after one season already, he has written his name amongst some of the best names in our league’s fine history.