Can Erling Haaland really make Manchester City better?
Admittedly, this is a good time to question whether Erling Haaland has made Manchester City a better football. group or not, especially if you are not a Citizen persuader. Although gave me amazing goddamn powermaybe this is the worst time to ask.
The current two-time defending champions have been working hard after the World Cup break, with one draw and one loss in their four matches since the restart of the Premier League. And for Haaland, failing to score in two consecutive games constitutes a crisis, with the much-needed goal rain that Ark often provides. This is particularly poignant after City were toppled by United on Saturday in the Manchester derby, a comeback that could leave them eight points behind leaders Arsenal when the weekend’s games end and draw only. the red half of Manchester with the score difference. second point.
But with City’s often snarling death machine spinning in the mud at the moment, we’ll take the opportunity to ask the question: Is Man City better off with Haaland?
What is the problem with Man City?
According to the most surface numbers, no. After 18 matches last season, Man City had 44 points, scored 44 goals with a goal difference of +35. This season, with 18 matches played, they have 39 points, scoring 46 goals with a goal difference of +28. So the number of goals is a bit more, but not equal to the number of wins, points or dominance.
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Digging a little deeper, after 18 games last season, City had scored those 44 goals on 45.4 worth of expected-goals. So they were scoring the exact amount of goals that their chance-creation suggested they should be. In this campaign, Haaland is the main reason that City have outscored their xG — 46 goals from 36.3 expected goals — which is the benefit of having the world’s best finisher on your team, the margin of error he provides, because he’ll always outscore what the metrics say he should. But still, this is City, and seeing their chance-creation go down is a bit curious. City usually count on team-wide brilliance, not individual (as weird as that sounds given the amount of individual brilliance they have).
Especially when a game like yesterday’s, unquestionably a huge one for City, becomes easy to focus on. Because when Haaland didn’t score, he didn’t do much else either. No shots on target, two shots, only 20 touches. Which was kind of the same story in City’s ho-hum win over Chelsea, where he only had three shots and none on target. Right before the World Cup break, he had a similar performance against Brentford in another loss for City. Compare that with his eight-shot, five on-target, two goal performance against the chaos that is Leeds United. He’s had the occasional tendency to be something of an obelisk when City have failed to kill off games.
Before you accuse Erling…
However, where Haaland’s influence on City’s biggest problems comes in is harder to judge. City have had a nasty habit this season of turning off once they get up a goal. They weren’t great against United yesterday, especially in the first half, but had gripped the game to start the second half and then deservedly got a goal. And then they just were kind of there.
It was the same story when they sank to a draw against Everton on New Year’s Eve. Haaland scored in the 24th minute, and then City only managed two blocked shots in the 40 minutes between that and being equalized. Their draw at Villa was the same story, Haaland scores and then City kind of paw at the opponent with the ball, running out the clock, and getting caught. There aren’t many of these games, but thanks to the ridiculous standard City have set the past six seasons or so and the one Arsenal are keeping up this season, there don’t have to be many games where you turn off to find yourself off the pace.
However big and whatever the problems are at City (everything’s relative, says this Liverpool supporter), Haaland isn’t responsible for Kevin De Bruyne still kind of playing with the same look on his face that he had at the World Cup, which was akin to just having stepped in dogshit. It might not have much to do with Haaland that Joao Cancelo isn’t quite the force he was last season. Bernardo Silva’s goal threat has dried up, though that might be due to playing off of the frontline as he has, at least occasionally, in the past. Ilkay Gundogan can’t really escape being 32 now.
But clearly, it’s been an adjustment for City to have a center forward who doesn’t really contribute in the build-up (though he’s better at it than he gets credit for). City’s striker-less formations of the past two or three seasons saw an array of movement and passing from their attacking five that no team could keep track of it all. Teams kind of know where Haaland is going to be at most times, whether they can do much about it or not. But his positioning keeps the wide forwards in their spots instead of ducking in and out and all around. Perhaps that’s a reason they go a bit stale when trying to kill off a game?
City have also had a habit of falling apart when things haven’t gone their way. They were almost definitely broken at Old Trafford on Saturday when Marcus Rashford interfered in the game from an offside position, even when he didn’t touch the ball. But that also doesn’t require them to give up a winner while still enthralled. They had a goal to set the score against Liverpool and quickly had a funny winning goal with a simple long ball. We know from City’s previous dodgy trials of Champions League that they can lose everything when something goes wrong. But this is not a team without bottles, as being able to hold off Liverpool two of the past three seasons until the last day has shown. Sometimes they’re just… a little weird.
It should be said that City and their fans wouldn’t be interested in any of this if Haaland scored a Champions League knockout goal (that the City could never find when they needed it) and end the pursuit of that trophy. Either way, one or more additional slips in the league and Champions League will be all City cares about. It should also be pointed out that even with the series of goals Haaland scored for Dortmund, all they won was a DFB-Pokal trophy, albeit clearly due to other circumstances.
City are still not inferior to the second or third strongest team in Europe. It was their greatness that made their margin of error so thin. But the question is in what respects did their mechanical striker land them?