MBN

SPORTS

Haaland: Erling Haaland has Man City point to prove after misfiring Real Mad...

England squad: Euro 2024- Rashford out of England squad; Eze, Mainoo in...
Published Time: 18.04.2024 - 16:20:25 Modified Time: 18.04.2024 - 16:20:25

Given the absurdly high standards Haaland set in his first season at City, perhaps he has raised expectations to an unrealistic level. But for a player whose game is all scoring, two goals in his last seven games for City feels almost like a drought for the Norwegian star. Haaland


In City's biggest game of the season, when they needed their star striker to step up, Haaland was muted, so much so he asked to be subbed before the start of extra-time.

Given the absurdly high standards Haaland set in his first season at City, perhaps he has raised expectations to an unrealistic level. But for a player whose game is all scoring, two goals in his last seven games for City feels almost like a drought for the Norwegian star.

Moreover, the last time Haaland scored a goal of any real significance was in the Manchester derby on March 3, his 90th-minute strike sealing a 3-1 win over local rivals United at the Etihad although, in truth, Pep Guardiola's side had the game won by that stage.

Former United skipper Roy Keane was typically blunt a few weeks ago when he claimed Haaland laboured like a “League Two player” in City's 0-0 draw with title rivals Arsenal. While that jibe was far-fetched, Haaland certainly has not looked at his imperious best in recent weeks.

Over two games against Real, Haaland had just two shots on target and lost possession 14 times. He managed only 21 touches over 90 minutes on Wednesday and did not complete a successful pass in the game until the 37th minute.

Given he is City's designated penalty taker and has scored 42 of 47 spot-kicks in his career, it was a gamble for Guardiola to replace Haaland for extra-time, with a shoot-out looming, and so it proved, with the holders losing out.

No-one doubts Haaland's predatory brilliance when it comes to scoring, but it is worth noting Guardiola hardly ever leaves him out of City's starting line-up for tactical reasons, only when he is rested or his absence is enforced through injury.

For a coach so revered for his tactical acumen and innovative thinking, it is curious there have been so few games in the past two seasons when Guardiola has felt City may have a better chance of beating opponents with different personnel.

Ex-City striker Paul Dickov claimed criticism of Haaland this season is unjustified, but did concede opponents now have a better idea of how to nullify his threat. “I think he's getting a bit of unjust criticism at the moment,” said Dickov.

A title race you can't miss. Get City news for FREE sent directly to your inbox!

SPORTS