You could say that Erling Haaland has hit the ground running. He has broken a few records already while dispelling any doubts about how quickly he would acclimatise to the rigours of the Premier League.
Haaland started slowly. He failed to make any impression in the Community Shield against Liverpool in July and was overshadowed by another debutant, Darwin Núñez, who came off the bench for Liverpool with 30 minutes remaining, won a penalty and scored a goal, prompting the feeling that he might adapt more quickly to his new environment.
After the Community Shield it looked like Haaland might need some time to fit into City’s style of play and English football. He was criticised for his lack of involvement in the first half of that game, in which he mustered just eight touches – the fewest of any outfield player – and was mocked for hitting the bar from six yards out in the last minute of the match. Pep Guardiola even felt the need to defend his recent purchase: “It is good for him to see the reality in a new country and a new league, but he was there,” said the City manager. “He didn’t score. He has incredible quality and he will do it.”
Nine weeks on and that prediction has proved to be spot on: Haaland has indeed done it. He swept away any fears of a slow start in the league by scoring twice against West Ham in City’s first match of the season then scored a further seven times in his next four games, breaking the record – previously shared by Sergio Agüero and Micky Quinn – for the most goals scored in a player’s first five games in the competition. The league’s all-time top scorer, Alan Shearer, needed nine matches to score his first seven; Harry Kane required 18.
Three goals against Manchester United on Sundaymeans that Haaland has scored 14 in his first eight Premier League matches, which includes the unique achievement of consecutive hat-tricks in three home league games. Even before the derby, the Norwegian had joined a select group of players to have scored hat-tricks in successive Premier League matches.
Les Ferdinand was the first, doing it for QPR against Nottingham Forest on 10 April 1993, then again against Everton just two days later. Others who have done likewise include Wayne Rooney, Didier Drogba, Ian Wright and Harry Kane – who is the only player to have done it twice, against Leicester and Hull in May 2017, and against Burnley and Southampton seven months later. Kane has not scored a league hat-trick since then.
In that time, there have been 58 Premier League hat-tricks, 19 of them scored by Manchester City players. In fact, in the last five years, City have racked up more than the combined total of Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, who have amassed 16 between them. For individual hat-tricks in the last five years, only Agüero with six, and Raheem Sterling and Salah with four each, have scored more than Haaland. The Norwegian’s tally of three so far this season is as many as Drogba, Jamie Vardy, Robbie Keane and Cristiano Ronaldo have achieved in their entire Premier League careers.
Haaland has also obliterated another record. Previously, Michael Owen held the record for the fewest games required to score three hat-tricks. Owen made his Premier League debut in May 1997, scored his first hat-trick in his 28th appearance, and reached three hat-tricks in his 48th league game. What took Owen 18 months has taken Haaland eight weeks.
If Haaland continues at his current rate of 1.75 goals per game, he will rack up 66 goals this season, almost doubling the existing Premier League record of 34 that was set by Andy Cole in 1993-94 and matched by Shearer the followingyear. Such a phenomenal rate of scoring also brings into reach a record that had previously seemed insurmountable: the all-time top-flight record of 60 goals set by Dixie Dean for Everton in 1927-28, a 42-match season. If Haaland keeps scoring hat-tricks at this frequency, he will break Agüero’s record of 12 in the Premier League – which he set over the course of a decade – by the end of April.
Haaland has already broken another record, which was held by Alan Shearer. The Englishman scored three hat-tricks in the space of 10 matches between November 1994 and February 1995; Haaland has sliced that milestone in half. The Norwegian has another one of Shearer’s records in his sights. Shearer scored five hat-tricks for Blackburn in the 1995-96 season, which remains a record for a single campaign. Haaland is more than halfway to that number already with 31 games to play this season – and he will take a four-week rest while many of his opponents are in Qatar for the World Cup.
As for his fellow countrymen, Haaland has surpassed Steffen Iversen and Josh King, who both scored two hat-tricks in the Premier League, and matched Ole Gunnar Solskjær, who scored three in his 235 Premier League appearances. Haaland is now just four goals shy of his father’s total of 18 goals in the Premier League, which took him 181 appearances. It’s safe to say he will become the most prolific member of the family before too long.
Like Haaland, Núñez also scored on his Premier League debut, against Fulham on the opening weekend of the season. When the campaign began, the two newcomers looked likely to be challenging each other for the golden boot. However, since that opening weekend, Liverpool’s summer signing from Benfica has hardly featured in the league, collecting as many red cards as goals. But Núñez is not alone in trailing behind Haaland. If the prolific 22-year-old stays at City long enough, every Premier League striker past and present may be overshadowed by his achievements.
October 6, 2022 at 04:15PM Richard Foster