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Haaland is doing to the Premier League what Messi and Ronaldo did to La Liga

Not for 91 years had a player scored 50 goals in a single season for an English top flight team until Erling Haaland reached the milestone for Manchester City. The sport has changed a lot since Pongo Waring found the back of the net 50 times for Aston Villa in the 1930/31 season, but goals remain football’s most valuable currency and Haaland is richer than anyone else right now.

Haaland’s goal-scoring ability has been obvious for some time, but questions were asked of the Norwegian striker when he swapped Borussia Dortmund for City last summer. Many predicted Haaland would struggle in Pep Guardiola’s possession-heavy team, and there were some initial teething troubles. Now, though, he is fully in sync with the team around him.

Guardiola has opted for a more direct approach to get the best out of Haaland this season with Kevin de Bruyne pushed into a more advanced position to establish an understanding with the Norwegian international. The ploy has worked with Manchester City more dangerous now than at any other stage of the season.

Some argued the Premier League could never be dominated by a single player like it has been by Haaland this season. However, the 22-year-old is doing to England’s top flight what Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo did to La Liga for so long. A new precedent is being established at the top of the Premier League.

“What he has shown in his career, not just here, it would be difficult,” said Guardiola when asked how to stop Haaland. “When we played against him when he was at Borussia Dortmund, (the best way was) to have 70/80 percent of the ball, so he’s not involved as much as possible. He is exceptional. We are really impressed with his behaviour, his mood, and the way he lives his life, his love for football, it’s exceptional.”

If this is how productive Haaland has been in his first season as a Manchester City player, it’s frightening to think how much better he could next season. Guardiola has a strong track record of lifting the level of new signings to unprecedented heights after an initial transitional season – see Jack Grealish as the perfect case study.

The switch to a back three with John Stones pushed into central midfield was ultimately designed to harness Haaland. At times in the first half of the season, the Norwegian was left isolated in phases of possession play. That doesn’t happen so often now and Guardiola’s tailored system has helped. City are strong in every area of the match at this moment in time.

Haaland has already demonstrated over the course of the 2022/23 campaign his willingness to grow and adapt. The goal he set-up for de Bruyne in the recent 4-1 win over Arsenal showcased how the Norwegian has added another dimension to his game with Haaland dropping deep to create space and release teammates in behind.

Guardiola has sometimes struggled to coach centre forwards in Haaland’s mould. Traditionally, the Catalan coach prefers natural ball-players in the number nine position, but Haaland has also forced Guardiola to evolve his own methods and ideas. The pair have been good for each other since joining forces last summer.

Messi and Ronaldo pushed each other to the top of the European game. They too were good for each other and Haaland is following in their footsteps by breaking records with almost every goal he scores for Manchester City. The Premier League has never seen a goal-scorer like the 22-year-old before. Haaland could change the landscape of English football.


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