Erling Haaland’s ruthlessness will give Manchester City a new edge | Erling Haaland

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Manchester City scored 99 goals on their way to winning the Premier League title this season. They scored more goals than any team in Europe’s top five leagues, with 16 players finding the net during the campaign. There are areas in their squad that need strengthening, notably at left-back and in central midfield, but the champions’ first summer signing has been a £51.5m deal for Erling Haaland. The best team in England have added the goalscorer they craved 12 months ago.

Injury restricted the Norwegian to 21 starts in the Bundesliga this season, but he ended the campaign with 22 goals and seven assists. He scored a goal for every 87 minutes he was on the pitch. Importantly, Haaland rectifies something of a weakness in the City squad.

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Yes, they score goals aplenty but, as their pursuit of Harry Kane made clear last summer, City wanted a world-class striker to lead the charge after the departure of Sergio Agüero. They signed Julián Álvarez in January, but let him stay with River Plate to continue his development and the Argentina international may play as a wide forward rather than an out-and-out striker.

City did not have a player to shoulder the goalscoring burden this season. They won the title, but having a natural striker leading the line would have given them a far better chance in the Champions League and would probably have taken them more than a point clear of Liverpool at the top of the league table. Liverpool have also bolstered their attack by breaking their transfer record to sign Uruguay striker Darwin Núñez from Benfica for €100m – as well as having Luis Díaz available from the start of pre-season – so City could not afford to do nothing this window.

Only Liverpool (97) created more clearcut goalscoring opportunities than City (87) in the Premier League this season, so City had no problem creating chances, but they were not always adept at tucking them away. Liverpool converted 55.3% of their clearcut chances – the best conversion rate in the league – whereas City scored from 46.7%, the fifth-best. Haaland will not be so profligate. He scored from 78.3% of his clearcut chances in the Bundesliga this season, the best return for any player presented with 10 or more clear chances.

Haaland’s conversion rate is skewed slightly by his penalty record – he scored all six he took in the league this season – but his composure from the spot is another bonus. City have scored 12 of the 18 penalties they have been awarded since the start of last season. Their troubles will ease when Haaland is standing over the ball.

So will their prolificacy inside the penalty area. City scored 81 goals from inside the area in the league this season – more goals than every side scored in total bar Liverpool – but they still passed up chances. They needed 16.6 touches inside the area per goal, which was the seventh-best return in the Premier League. Liverpool needed 15.7 touches in the area per goal. Haaland needed seven touches in the area per goal in the Bundesliga.

He was playing for a different team with a different style in a different league but his ruthlessness is clear to see – and he will be presented with a lot more chances in a City shirt. Borussia Dortmund averaged 13.3 shots and 9.8 key passes a game this season, figures dwarfed by City’s 18.8 shots and 14.2 key passes. Haaland maximised the goalscoring opportunities created for him to great effect. The combination of his clinical finishing and his teammates’ creativity is a scary prospect.

The signs are ominous for City’s opponents but moving from the Bundesliga to the Premier League is easier said than done, especially for forwards. Sébastien Haller, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz all struggled. However, the same questions were asked of Haaland when he moved from RB Salzburg to Borussia Dortmund in January 2020. He quickly quashed those concerns by scoring a 23-minute hat-trick on his debut against Augsburg.

The difference in quality between the Bundesliga and the Premier League could prove a sticking point, but Haaland has the skillset and the physicality to shine for a side that creates ample opportunities.

“You can’t help but admire their style of play,” said Haaland when the transfer was confirmed. “It’s exciting and they create a lot of chances, which is perfect for a player like me.”

For City fans, it is hard to not be excited about the 21-year-old turning out in blue next season. Having gone from not having a clear focal point to the side, the champions have a goalscoring machine to batter defences. If opponents did not have a real reason to fear City, they certainly do now.

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