ENGLAND – Erling Haaland opened his new account at Manchester City on Sunday afternoon. The Norwegian star faced West Ham United in his Premier League debut, scoring a brace in the process.
“He was born to score goals,” said Pep Guardiola after the clash. Jürgen Klopp would suggest the same about Darwin Núñez, who also found the net against Fulham in his debut at Craven Cottage.
Haaland’s second goal in particular could provide a glimpse into the future for Núñez. The two strikers are particularly similar in size and speed, and will profit from similar types of services in England.
The Uruguayan featured as a substitute for Liverpool, but at no stage throughout his appearance did the Reds hold a lead. Klopp’s men had to claw back a deficit against Fulham on two occasions during the 90 minutes, with Núñez forced to maximise tight spaces, feeding on scraps as his teammates struggled to reach their usual standard.
Haaland, by contrast, witnessed life in the Premier League with his team in the lead from the 36th minute, and it benefited his skill set massively in the second half.
Having conceded first, West Ham had to chase the game. David Moyes’ game plan of sitting deep and soaking pressure no longer made sense. He had to adapt, so his players pushed up the field, opening up space behind their defence.
In Haaland, Guardiola has a six-foot-three striker who is lightning quick across the ground. He’s a nightmare for opponents to manage, especially when he’s got space in behind to get on the end of through balls.
Some doubters in the Premier League have suggested Haaland won’t profit from as much space in England as he did in the Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund, but that same space looks destined to open up whenever Manchester City gain a lead.
After the hour mark, Haaland showcased exactly what he’s best at. West Ham had committed bodies forward as they attempted to level the scores, but Manchester City regained the ball in midfield through Kevin de Bruyne, as shown below.
The Belgian midfielder lifted his head and found the run of his Scandinavian teammate in behind, allowing the 22-year-old striker to engage in a one-on-one with the goalkeeper before finding the net.
It was vintage Haaland, and the move transpired because Guardiola’s outfit had a lead, which impacted the behaviour and tactical approach of their opponents.
Núñez witnessed life with a lead at Liverpool against Manchester City in their recent Community Shield clash, and he proved to be a menace, scoring a goal and gaining a one-on-one opportunity against Ederson after entering the fray as a substitute.
The South American didn’t get the chance to play on the break by threatening in behind against Fulham but moving forward (providing the Reds gain a lead more often) he could score plenty of goals like Haaland’s second against the Hammers.
Ultimately, both strikers could prove to be flat-track bullies in the coming months, bagging the majority of their goals on the break after the first goal has already been scored.